Worker/Consumer Partnerships 

Partners in Quality: Health Care Professionals, Workers and Consumers Fighting for Quality Health Care

Health care workers and professionals have always been strong advocates for patients and consumers know it. Whether in the hospital, doctors’ offices, or at home, consumers often rely on the nurses, nurses aids, and other health care staff to help them understand what is happening to them and how to make decisions. People who provide direct patient care have a special relationship with patients and can be an invaluable resource.

Workers and health professionals have reported these dangerous trends:

Health care professionals and workers feel the pressure that incentive agreements and efficiency goals put on patient care decisions that require a choice between saving money and providing appropriate services. Health care professionals and workers help consumers understand what effect these cost cutting policies have on patient care. Consumers are often ill-equipped to evaluate quality of care without the assistance of health professionals.

The worker-consumer partnership is essential to consumer advocacy efforts!

The revolution in managed care threatens this long time relationship by making money, not quality, the bottom line in health care. The Consumer Coalition works around the country to strengthen and empower partnerships with consumers and health care workers and professionals to fight for quality and consumer protection in health care.

The Consumer Coalition’s partners recognize the opportunity for health professionals, workers and consumers to lead the way in promoting a consumer agenda in health care reform. The Consumer Coalition’s partners in this endeavor include:

What's Happening to Health Care?

Consumers and health care workers need each other more than ever. Reforms in health care are being driven by cost concerns, not concerns over quality or access. Saving money often translates into restricting access to care, negotiating reduced reimbursements for providers and facilities and cutting down hospital stays. Without proper consumer protection and quality monitoring of the managed care system, these cost cutting measures create dangerous incentives to underserve patients and pose tremendous threats to the quality of care.

Health care policy and industry analysts claim that the market is becoming more "consumer driven," meaning that the intense competition among health plans makes them highly sensitive to consumer demands and concerns. Usually this means that large employers have more leverage in negotiating the lowest price health benefits. But it does not automatically translate into higher quality, more accessible care for individual consumers. It will take organized consumer demands for industry and regulatory changes to shape the rapidly changing health care delivery system.

It is more important than ever before that together workers and consumers lead in the effort to maintain and improve the quality of health care. We must take action quickly to participate in these dramatic changes. All across the country not-for-profit hospitals and health plans are either moving towards conversion to for-profit status, are being bought by large corporate chains, or are merging with other companies and facilities. As health plans and facilities vie to gain dominance in the market, the current sensitivity to consumer demands will fade and the political environment will be less favorable. Unless we stop the rush to consolidate profits and power in the current health care system, consumers and workers will face a future that offers very little choice, accountability, consumer protection or quality assurance.

What are the Health Care Standards Workers and Consumers Need?

The Consumer Coalition is here to help. We are leading a national effort to strengthen worker/consumer partnerships and launch campaigns for quality health care in various states around the country. The Consumer Coalition’s Statement of Principles is the unifying force for the 35 participating consumer and labor organizations. The principles include choice and consumer information, consumer protection, quality assurance and public accountability.

In addition, the Consumer Coalition has developed model state legislation that can help win this fight. The Quality Imperative: Model State Legislation for Managed Care establishes a comprehensive, integrated and uniform approach to providing consumer protections and quality assurance in managed care plans. The legislation is general enough to allow state activists to tailor it to their states current law but specific enough to offer legislative language on a broad array of topics. The legislation has six sections that can be introduced as a package or as individual bills and may be useful in agency rule-making procedures that are underway in many states.

In the new managed care world, consumers are expected to "take responsibility" for their health care but are not being given the information they need. Consumers as well as workers share the need for:

From Principles to Policy and Practice: Essential Action Items

The Consumer Coalition has many resources for workers and consumers in their fight for quality health care. Just click on any of the buttons below, to get more information on the following resources:

Other Available Resources for Organizers

The Quality Connection: The Consumer Coalition's Newsletter for Health Advocates



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