CONSUMER NEWS: Hotline Offers Help Navigating Health Care System
Health Rights' pilot managed care information hotline, which aims to help consumers effectively "navigate the health care system," is achieving success, according to a survey published in the January/February issue of Health Affairs. The survey of 3,200 Sacramento-area households was conducted by the Virginia-based Lewin Group as part of an evaluation of the pilot hotline in Sacramento. According to the results, 29% of respondents have had a problem with their managed care plans in the past year. Among those reporting a problem, 42% of consumers cited a delay or denial of care, and 39% said they had suffered a financial loss of at least $200, a loss of at least 10 hours from work or school, or physical harm or worsening/prolonging of their health condition. Although 71% of respondents reporting difficulties took action, 54% of that group remained "dissatisfied" with the provided resolution or had not received correction to the problem. "There appears to be a real need for independent assistance programs like the Health Rights Hotline to educate consumers about their rights and effective means for resolving problems they experience with the health care system," Lewin Group Senior Manager and the study's principal author Gina Livermore said. Survey participants agreed. Sixty-eight percent of those experiencing problems called for a "mechanism for lodging complaints"; 64% said they wanted more information on consumers' rights; and 55% sought referral to a group that could help them. The Health Rights Hotline, funded by the California Wellness Foundation, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Sierra Health Foundation, aims to satisfy those needs, according to the evaluation. A follow-up survey of hotline callers found they were "significantly more likely" to be content with the achieved resolution. Sixty-two percent said the service was "very helpful," while 23% rated it as "somewhat helpful." Hotline counselors have responded to more than 4,300 calls since the program's inception 18 months ago. "Clearly the extent to which the Hotline is being used demonstrates the need for this type of service. If consumers are to obtain quality health care, they must understand how to negotiate and successfully advocate for their own health needs," California Wellness Foundation President and CEO Gary Yates said (Kaiser Family Foundation, et al. release, 1/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.