Health Access Program

Begun in 2007 as the Hospital Accountability Project, the Health Access Program (HAP) seeks to ensure and expand access to safe and affordable health care for all Georgians through consumer empowerment, policy development, and advocacy. HAP focuses its efforts primarily on vulnerable Georgians whose health care needs are often neglected, such as senior citizens, low-income individuals, the uninsured, the underinsured, those with chronic conditions, and those who do not speak English well. Through this consumer-centered mission, we work to educate all Georgians on important health care issues and promote consumer-friendly health care policies at the various levels of government and business where such policies are made.

During its first five years, with funding from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation and Community Catalyst, HAP conducted surveys of hospitals statewide, released more than a dozen relevant reports, and conducted numerous consumer workshops that have empowered consumers, educated policymakers, and engaged key stakeholders. The program is directed by Bill Rencher, an attorney and recent MPH graduate of Georgia State University. The current goals of HAP are centered on its mission of consumer empowerment, policy development, and advocacy with an emphasis on holding non-profit hospitals accountable for their tax exempt status, expanding access to healthcare in underserved areas, and promoting patient safety.

September 21, 2012 – Georgia Watch submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service today on proposed regulations for non-profit hospitals on their financial assistance policies. These regulations are being written in accordance with provisions of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The IRS issued a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) on June 21, 2012, requesting comments. A full copy of the comments can be found here.

“Georgia Watch wants to make sure consumers are given a voice in a process that appears to be dominated by the interests of hospitals,” remarked Elena Parent, executive director of consumer advocacy organization Georgia Watch.

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September 13, 2012 – A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this week showed that the number of uninsured Americans dropped for the first time in three years. From 2010 to 2011, nearly 1.3 million people gained insurance coverage. This is especially remarkable given the weakness of the American economy, when it could otherwise be expected that the percentage of Americans insured would drop due to fewer people receiving coverage through employment. According to the Washington Post (read the full story here), almost 40% of this increase in coverage can be attributed to the provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows adult children to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

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June 28, 2012 – Today, the United States Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but narrowly construed the federal government’s ability to require state expansion of Medicaid. While the court’s upholding of most of the ACA is good for Georgia consumers, the ruling on Medicaid means that Georgia could refuse to expand Medicaid without incurring a penalty.

“Most of today’s ruling is really a huge victory for Georgia’s health care consumers,” says Bill Rencher, Georgia Watch Health Access Program director. According to Rencher, several portions of the ACA upheld today have already benefitted millions of Georgians. For example:

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