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Letters to the 107th Congress

June 27, 2001

The Honorable Jack Reed
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

Re: S. 651

Dear Senator Reed:

I am writing on behalf of the American Bar Association in support of S. 651, "The Health Care Consumer Assistance Fund Act." The ABA's support of S. 651 is based on Association policy endorsing "the right of all consumers to a fair and efficient process for resolving differences with managed health care plans, health care providers, and the institutions that serve such plans and providers" and urging that "consumer education and ombudsman programs should provide information and assistance in resolving health care complaints."

The ABA has worked for many years to strengthen health and long-term care dispute resolution systems and ensure procedural due process. In 1997, the ABA's Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly sponsored an interdisciplinary Roundtable on the Resolution of Consumer Disputes in Managed Care. In 2000, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Commission completed a report of its survey of 50 managed care plans on their grievance, appeal and dispute resolution procedures. Also, the Commission works closely with state long-term care ombudsman programs and state health insurance counseling and assistance programs for Medicare beneficiaries.

Under today's complex health care system, consumers are in great need of a program to assist them in understanding their rights, options and responsibilities. S. 651 would provide grants for states to set up and maintain impartial consumer assistance programs to meet this need. Despite the current efforts in both the public and private sector, many consumers - especially elderly consumers -- do not understand their health coverage, and most do not have independent, credible sources of information to assist them in making decisions or solving problems. In addition, when consumers are most in need of assistance to obtain health care, they are often frail or ill and cannot effectively advocate for themselves.

The "Health Care Consumer Assistance Act" will help in maintaining and strengthening productive working relationships between health care consumers and their providers and insurers. The health care consumer assistance programs will include state based education, problem resolution and feedback programs; these will serve to help consumers quickly solve their problems with access in order to avoid the need for more extensive formal grievance procedures. The existing health care consumer assistance programs targeted to Medicare beneficiaries and consumers of long-term care, as well as some state programs, have already proven to be effective and helpful to consumers, as well as to other stakeholders.

For all of these reasons, we support enactment of S. 651. This legislation is a positive step forward for consumers of health care.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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