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California Healthline Daily Edition

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HEALTH CARE RESEARCH: Unprecedented Grant Awarded to Help Consumers

      The California Endowment will award seven consumer groups $8.5 million "to help Californians navigate the state's complex health care system and secure essential medical care." By February 2003, the Sacramento-based Health Rights Hotline will receive $1.7 million to help consumers solve access problems. In addition, six Health Consumer Alliance assistance centers will share $6.8 million over the next three years. "As families struggle to find their way through an increasingly complex and confusing health system, independent consumer assistance programs will play a critical role," Stan Dorn, HCA project director, said, adding, "We help the uninsured gain coverage. We also help insured consumers troubleshoot the system, getting essential care from HMOs and other insurers." The consumer groups will also use the money to establish a statewide system to monitor consumer health trends. Shelley Rouillard, Health Rights Hotline program director, said that the recipients "interact one-on-one with numerous consumers and rigorously track broad trends. We are thus in an ideal position to diagnose the systemic issues facing health consumers and to share such findings with the public and key opinion leaders." The groups will work closely with the newly-created Department of Managed Care by providing local perspectives on consumer problems and assisting individual consumers in gaining access to health care coverage. Gwen Walden, a senior program officer with the California Endowment, said, "These programs have the expertise to clarify and resolve problems at an early stage, before [the problems] endanger consumers' health. Independent consumer assistance programs help make the voices of the most vulnerable Californian consumers heard in the health care debate" (California Endowment release, 6/29).

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