- Represented consumers in the state-level implementation of health-care reform. Since the passage of federal health-care reform, our primary focus has been on making sure North Carolina’s implementation of the law addresses the needs of low- and moderate-income individuals and families across the state. The reform law leaves many decisions up to the states, and we have taken a lead role in representing consumers in the process by serving on numerous task forces and work groups making recommendations for the implementation of reform.
- Engaged North Carolinians in the implementation of health reform. We used intensive media outreach, opinion pieces in newspapers, e-newsletters and blog posts to distribute information on health-care reform and state-level implementation. We also created 17 videos highlighting stories of people whose lives were improved by federal health-care reform.
- Helped to create a new information source for consumers. Federal health-care reform calls on each state to create call centers where consumers can get questions answered. We supported the NC Department of Insurance’s application to host the program, now called SmartNC, and we serve on its community advisory board to make sure the program is meeting the needs of individuals and families. In the coming year, we will work to secure a sustained funding source for SmartNC.
- Fighting the health industry’s efforts to dominate the implementation of health-care reform. One key feature of reform is the establishment of a health benefits exchange in each state. The health benefits exchange is a new marketplace through which many state residents will purchase insurance coverage, compare health plans, seek counseling about insurance options, and enroll in Medicaid. The exchange will also provide additional oversight of the health insurance industry. The way North Carolina structures its exchange will be critical for the success of reform in this state and for making the health insurance system fair and accountable. But during the legislative session, lobbyists for the health-care industry pushed legislation to create an exchange that would be controlled by insurers without adequate input from consumers. We led the fight to defeat this exchange bill. We created one of the largest health advocacy coalitions ever assembled in the state, called Citizens for Responsible Health Care, which maintained a critical media presence, generated thousands of calls and emails to legislators, packed legislative committee hearings, and drove news coverage during the battle over the industry-sponsored bill. With our coalition allies, we convinced the state Senate not to hear the legislation. However, the bill is still eligible to move in 2012, and we are ready to ensure that any exchange legislation helps the everyday people who have struggled for decades against a health care system that favors industry and leaves consumers broke and broken.
- Empowering caregivers and elderly North Carolinians to fight for better health care. Even though the passage of health-care reform was critical, it was only the first step in building a better health-care system—there is little benefit to having health insurance if the health care system is not delivering quality care that puts the needs of the patient first. In 2011, we partnered with Community Catalyst and AARP North Carolina to expand a new initiative called the Campaign for Better Care. Through this effort, we organized community events in Greenville, Pittsboro, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington and made presentations to some 400 people on health care, public services, and health-consumer rights. Some of the event attendees were so inspired that they joined AARP on a bus trip to Washington, DC to talk to members of Congress about the importance of a well-functioning health-care system. During the coming year, we will continue our community engagement efforts in order to empower health-care consumers to advocate for their own rights and for public policies that increase accessibility to quality care.
- Protecting and expanding funding for public health programs. State legislators made significant cuts to Medicaid this year and claimed they would make up the money with the savings from expanding the state’s managed care program – even though countless government and nonprofit officials told them it would not work. It did not work, and now the battle will intensify to ensure that the thousands of North Carolina families who rely on Medicaid and NC Health Choice, the state’s insurance program for children from low-income families, are not left without much-needed health coverage and assistive services.
- Setting the record straight on health-care reform. Reform opponents have run a sustained campaign of misinformation. We, along with local and national partners, held educational forums and conducted media outreach in order to get the truth out about the benefits of health-care reform. We posted videos online to highlight individuals’ stories of the benefits of reform and to hold politicians accountable when they misrepresent it. We have established ourselves with the media as an expert source to counter the false claims that are sure to come next year.
- Improving the communications efforts of other health organizations around the country. This year we established ourselves as a national leader in the use of video to show the impact of health policy and budget decisions on the lives of low- and moderate-income North Carolinians. After gaining broad experience in the use of video, we wrote and published a handbook for state-based advocates on selecting video equipment, finding stories, and posting videos online. We made a presentation on the handbook at a national meeting of health advocates in Philadelphia, and we traveled to Virginia and South Carolina to help partner organizations in those states use video effectively. We already have plans to do more trainings in 2012 in Mississippi, Texas and other states.
Annual Reports on Health Access