With the generous support of the Public Welfare Foundation, Community Catalyst is releasing a new report “Building on the Foundation: Consumer Advocacy’s Role in Successful Health Care Reform.” It outlines the substantial effort required to implement health care reform, the key role of consumer advocates, and the vital need for funder participation. We wrote the report from the viewpoint that national health care reform will be enacted soon, and we remain optimistic and committed to that outcome. But whatever course national health care reform takes, the report’s key takeaways will apply:

  • States will be a central focus of health care reform activity, including policymaking, program development, enrollment and monitoring
  • Advocates will need to build public support for reform
  • Insurance reform, affordability and cost containment will be critical issues
  • Delivery system reform will be essential to both improving quality and reducing the cost of care
  • New tools and greater community engagement are required to address health disparities
  • The advocacy infrastructure at the state and national levels need to be strengthened to ensure effective consumer participation

The message from the public during the past week appears to be that people want health care reform, but they are confused about the provisions, concerned about cost and unhappy with the legislative process. Consumer advocates have an important role to play in helping to educate consumers, promote consumer-friendly policies, and support consumer engagement to ensure transparency and accountability. The policy issues and associated advocacy work outlined in the report are areas we must focus on regardless of the outcome of the federal legislation. Indeed, much of this agenda exists independent of federal reform and must be pursued through state-level campaigns.

Many national and local funders have supported consumer advocates in their efforts to pass incremental state and local reforms, and to build on that experience. Achieving comprehensive and affordable health care reform is a monumental task. It requires a vision encompassing not just health care coverage and access, but also social justice, consumer empowerment and civic engagement. We hope that many funders will support this work since successful health care reform will have significant, positive effects throughout the economy and the country.
Effective health care reform will require close collaboration and coordination among state-based consumer advocates, national organizations and funders. We prepared this report to help advocates and funders establish their priorities and plan their work over the next few years.