Updated: December 2020

49th annual fundraiser (2020)

Consumer Action celebrated 49 years of consumer successes during its annual convening and awards ceremony, held in late September via a series of virtual panels and an award ceremony, with advocates, allies and experts from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors participating. Titled Health Is Wealth, the occasion featured two timely panels—one detailing the problem of surprise medical bills and medical debt collection, and the other covering telemedicine and medical data protection—and Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Awards. The anniversary awards ceremony, which capped off the two-day event, honored Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, for her regulatory work defending consumers’ right to fair health care; KHN (formerly Kaiser Health News), for its informative media coverage that helps consumers make good medical and healthcare decisions; and Families USA, for its work to keep healthcare coverage accessible and available to all. (Watch recordings on our YouTube Channel.)

Coming at a critical time—during a pandemic, with prescription drug costs and medical debts rising, and the current administration ramping up its fight to destroy the Affordable Care Act—Consumer Action chose the “health is wealth” theme to focus attention on the work of the individuals and organizations fighting on the frontlines for solutions to the problems impacting both the physical health and, by correlation, the financial health of those living in the U.S., especially the most vulnerable among us, including seniors, those with chronic illness, people of color, and those with low or no income.

Emmy Award-winning reporter and top consumer advocate (“Consumer Man”) Herb Weisbaum emceed both panels, featuring consumer, health care, legal and privacy experts from Families USA, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), the Better Medicare Alliance, Clover Health (a Medicare Advantage provider), the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center and the World Privacy Forum. Weisbaum kicked off the event by describing how medical debt is now the number one reason people file for bankruptcy in the U.S.

After the panelists were done presenting, the third, and final, session—Consumer Action’s 2020 Consumer Excellence Awards ceremony—kicked off with Troy Clair, senior policy manager at Amazon and chair of the event host committee, in the role of emcee. Clair recognized the event sponsors, including presenting sponsor Amazon and underwriters JPMorgan Chase, Comcast, Facebook and TracFone. Click here for a list of all sponsors.

Clair introduced the first presenter, public interest antitrust attorney David Balto, who presented Consumer Action’s 2020 community award to Families USA Executive Director Frederick Isasi, for the nonprofit’s tireless work to strengthen and expand Medicare and Medicaid, obtain adequate funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), pass the Affordable Care Act, and more.

Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus presented the award for media to KHN (Kaiser Health News) Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal, for not just helping consumers stay on top of the latest news, but also helping them to understand the many moving parts of the healthcare equation, including the impact of the most recent healthcare developments and policies.

Doug Heller, an insurance expert with the Consumer Federation of America, introduced the final awardee, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, for consumer excellence in the regulatory arena.

The virtual events raised $258,000. “We want our supporters to know that their generous donations will help us provide our newsletters and other crucial free information to consumers during the pandemic,” noted Executive Director Ken McEldowney.


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