Consumer Action examines ‘Health and Wealth’ at virtual convening

Two online panels will be held Sept. 29 and 30

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With healthcare access, costs and coverage playing a prominent role in the lives of many, Consumer Action will hold a two-day, two-panel convening of experts and community groups to examine the links between medical and financial health. The convening will feature panels on critical topics like surprise medical billing, medical debt collection, telemedicine, and innovative solutions for access to healthcare for underrepresented consumers. The virtual convening will take place on Sept. 29 and 30, from 1:30-3 p.m. ET.

Consumer Action invites the media to attend free. Please email [email protected] to receive a free code you can use to register.

Directly following day two of the convening, Consumer Action will host its 49th Anniversary Consumer Excellence Awards online at 3 p.m. ET. This year’s recipients are Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman; Families USA; and Kaiser Health News.

A “surprise” medical bill can upend one’s life. Often, and only after the fact, do consumers learn that an emergency room doctor, ambulance service or anesthesiologist was not “in-network,” even if the hospital accepted their insurance plan. These consumers find themselves liable for “balance billing” charges.

A growing number of hospitals across the nation have unleashed debt collectors to hound patients for unpaid medical bills. Half of all overdue debt on credit reports is from medical bills, according to the CFPB.

These are just some of the critical areas impacting the financial health of families and individuals that Consumer Action will cover in its upcoming Health and Wealth virtual convening on Sept. 29 and 30.

Day one’s discussion will include what laws protect people when they are exposed to unexpected medical bills and what loopholes patients need to be aware of. Our panel of experts will offer advice on how to negotiate medical debt and expound on innovative ways to access health care and coverage. This will include little-known laws (some states cap interest rates on medical debt) and services (some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits such as dental care, hearing aids and medical transportation that make healthcare more manageable).

Day two’s panel will focus on access to health care via telemedicine. During the COVID crisis, consumers have come to rely on virtual visits for routine consultations. We will explore if telehealth is permanently changing the way Medicare, Medicaid and private-pay patients receive medical care. While telemedicine offers access and convenience for some consumers, tens of millions have digital barriers blocking them from virtual health care.

Telemedicine privacy will be part of the discussion. While consumers may be more willing to share personal health information “online” during the COVID crisis, and rules designed to protect that very personal health data have also been relaxed, benefits and risks remain.

On Sept. 29, Health and Wealth convening panelists include:

  • Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center
  • Jane Sheehan, director of federal relations for Families USA
  • Allyson Y. Schwartz, president and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance and a former member of Congress

On Sept. 30, panelists discussing telemedicine include:

  • Dr. Katharine Wibberly, the director of the Mid-Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center
  • Dr. Kumar Dharmarajan, a cardiologist, geriatrician and chief scientific officer for Clover Health.
  • Sarah Green, vice president of commercialization at NextGen Healthcare
  • Pam Dixon, the founder and executive director of World Privacy Forum

Herb Weisbaum, Consumer reporter for KOMO Radio and a contributing editor at Checkbook.org, will serve as the keynote speaker and the moderator on both days.

Consumer Action’s Health and Wealth convening is presented by Walmart, with additional support from Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Better Medicare Alliance, TracFone, Amazon, and Wells Fargo.

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Consumer Action has been a champion of underrepresented consumers nationwide since 1971. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Consumer Action focuses on consumer education that empowers low- and moderate-income and limited-English-speaking consumers to financially prosper. It also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers to advance consumer rights and promote industry-wide change.

By providing consumer education materials in multiple languages, a free national hotline, a comprehensive website (www.consumer-action.org) and annual surveys of financial and consumer services, Consumer Action helps consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and make financially savvy choices. More than 6,000 community and grassroots organizations benefit annually from its extensive outreach programs, training materials and support.

 

 

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