Consumer advocates spreading the word on health reform

0 | Advocacy, Health Reform

— Consumer advocates say they have a big task ahead as various parts of the new, federal health reform start to become effective in the coming weeks and months.

“Right now we’re in a getting-consumers-educated mode,” said Corrie Edwards, executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition. “Consumers will be a large component of what needs to drive the first year of health reform implementation.”

The group on Thursday hosted a webinar to update consumers and others on the various elements of the health reform legislation.

More than a dozen people from around the state participated, said Anna Lambertson, director of development and public outreach for the consumer organization.

The webinar’s purpose was to provide accurate information about the health reform components, Lambertson said.

Participants asked about the state’s role in implementing health reform and asked for more information on certain issues, such as the interim high risk health insurance pool that will be created in Kansas as a stop-gap to the health insurance exchange expected to be operational by 2014.

Participants were also encouraged to contact legislators and local newspapers to voice support for implementing the federal reform law.

Some Republican officials have said they will work to repeal the health reform.

Consumer support will be important for a number of things, Edwards said.

For instance, she said, the new law funds creation of a “health insurance ombudsman” office in Kansas that would provide information to consumers about health care and investigate suspicious claims regarding health care services.

“I’d like to see some consumers involved in the development of the ombudsman program,” she said. “I think that will be vital because it’s a consumer-driven program.”

Edwards said more information about health reform would be posted to the organization’s Web site, http://kshealthconsumer.com/, in the coming months.