Community Catalyst Announces First Round of Grant Awards to Support Improved Health Care Access for the Underinsured
Boston, MA, January 8, 2008. Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization, today announced that it has awarded an initial round of grants to advocate-led collaboratives in California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee to work on policy and organizing activities to benefit the underinsured in each state.
The grant program, an initiative of Community Catalyst’s Hospital Accountability Project, will promote changes in policies and practices of individual hospitals and hospital systems as well as at the local and state public policy levels. Each funded state collaborative will embark on campaigns and activities aimed at improving health access and reducing medical debt for low- and moderate-income underinsured individuals and families.
“Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the nation,” said Renée Markus Hodin, Project Director. “Clearly, this is a serious problem for those with no health insurance, but, increasingly it is a problem for those with insurance who discover their coverage falls short at the times they need it most. We’re pleased to award these grants to advocate-led collaboratives that are at the forefront of the fight for a more transparent, accountable and fair health care system.”
The four state grant awards are the first phase of the 15-state Project whose funding is derived from the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the Tenet Healthcare Corporation, a national for-profit hospital company, alleging illegal billing and collection tactics against the uninsured and underinsured (brief descriptions of each of the four state projects are available below). As part of the settlement, the court awarded Community Catalyst funds to provide grants in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas to attack the problems that gave rise to the original litigation. The remaining 11 state grant awards will be made later in 2008 and in 2009.
Community Catalyst awards these grants at the same time that federal policymakers are increasingly turning their attention to nonprofit hospital accountability. Last month, the IRS released stronger and more uniform reporting requirements for hospital community benefits. In October, Senate Finance Committee staff members also convened a roundtable discussion on the issue of setting minimum federal standards for nonprofit hospital community benefit programs.
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to quality affordable health care for all. Since 1997, Community Catalyst has been working to build the consumer and community leadership required to transform the American health system. With the belief that this transformation will happen when consumers are fully engaged and have an organized voice, Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to change the health care system so it serves everyone—especially vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.
About Community Catalyst Hospital Accountability Project Grant Recipients
California: The California Health Initiative on Overcharging and Underinsurance, or “Health I.O.U.,” will seek to build on the framework established by the 2006 passage of AB774, publicly known as the Hospital Payers’ Bill of Rights, to prevent hospital and medical overcharging and to improve hospitals’ financial assistance policies in both state and local arenas. Led by the Health Access Foundation and the Western Center for Law and Poverty, Health I.O.U. will also focus its efforts on advocating for strong standards that limit consumers’ out-of-pocket costs while providing them with comprehensive, affordable health care coverage.
Nebraska: In Nebraska, legislative reforms intended to contain the state’s Medicaid costs are expected to increase costs for Medicaid recipients, thereby increasing the number of underinsured in the state. Led by Nebraska’s Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest (“Appleseed”), the Nebraska collaborative will work to strengthen the existing advocacy structures as they prepare for potential reforms, educate state legislators on Medicaid’s importance to the state’s overall healthcare system and the effects of those reforms, and propose positive alternatives for increasing efficiency within the Medicaid program.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Health Law Project (“PHLP”) is leading a collaborative that will work to establish standards for charity care in Pennsylvania; to ensure greater access to timely and appropriate care; to create consumer-friendly, standardized hospital billing procedures; and finally, to establish standards regarding hospital debt collection practices.
Tennessee: Led by the Tennessee Health Care Campaign (“THCC”), the Tennessee collaborative will seek to improve consumers’ ability to afford and get timely access to health care by highlighting the inadequacies of current hospital charity care policies and billing and debt collection practices across the state. Its ultimate goal will be to develop recommendations for improvement, promote state policy changes that will establish fair standards in each of these areas, and monitor implementation of these policies throughout Tennessee.