As we face a momentous month for the new health care law, being selected as a Champion of Change is both an honor and a responsibility. For anyone like myself who has devoted their professional life to expanding access and improving quality of health care for everyone - and I have the good fortune to work with colleagues across both the state and country who also fit this description - this is a great recognition. However, this honor is also an acknowledgement of the hard work ahead in helping people understand the law’s benefits and in working both in our state and nationally to successfully implement the law.
Luckily, the North Carolina Justice Center and its now two-decade-old Health Access Coalition that I lead are uniquely qualified to play a large role in doing this work. Expansion of health programs like Medicaid to many more very low income Americans is an important part of the new health law. Our organization has played a significant role in expanding and protecting NC’s Medicaid program since 1997 and so knows the pitfalls and opportunities involved in finally bringing good health coverage to some of the poorest people in our state. Now we are working with state experts and policymakers to ensure this latest Medicaid expansion is effective and reaches the farthest corners of North Carolina.
We also have the policy expertise to represent consumer interests as we begin to create state health exchanges - our policy analyst Adam Linker is recognized as one of the most knowledgeable experts in the state on the health law’s health exchanges and is bringing his knowledge and influence to the national level as a consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
At the Justice Center, our coalition work also takes us around our state talking to many people directly affected by the health care law. Our work with older adults, led by Nicole Dozier, is directed at bringing substantial numbers of seniors together, especially in the more rural areas of our state, to get information about the new health law and hear their concerns and suggestions about how to improve the health system.
Finally, our video and new media work has enabled many people to tell their stories of their own successes with the changes in health care or illuminate the needs they have for change. Bringing consumer voices to the table is important because transforming our system will only work if the people most affected - the patients - have a voice. We feel so strongly about this strategy and the role of video in its success that we are working with national organizations to travel around the country sharing our newly-developed video strategies and expertise.
Implementing the new federal health law is both exciting and challenging at the same time. I’m proud to be a part of an organization playing a role at this historic moment.
Adam Searing serves as Director of the Health Access Coalition for the North Carolina Justice Center. The Health Access Coalition is North Carolina’s leading voice for progressive health care reforms that address the needs of the uninsured and underinsured.