Healthcare Access

Healthcare Access

The Health Access Program (HAP) seeks to ensure and expand access to safe, quality, affordable healthcare for all Georgians through consumer empowerment, policy development and advocacy.

The Health Access Program (HAP) focuses its efforts primarily on vulnerable Georgians whose healthcare needs are often neglected, such as low-income individuals, the uninsured and under-insured, rural residents, and those who do not speak English well. Through our consumer-centered mission, we educate Georgians on important healthcare issues and promote consumer-friendly policies at the various levels of government and business where such decisions are made.

Program Details

Consumer Empowerment

HAP has direct contact with consumers through educational presentations and the Georgia Watch consumer help line.  By talking to consumers who call Georgia Watch and responding to emails sent through the website, HAP directly assists Georgians with their healthcare and medical expense questions. Not only does Georgia Watch help individuals when responding to these inquiries, but the organization also becomes educated about the real issues consumers face all over the state.  HAP also creates resources to educate consumers, lawmakers, and other stakeholders about developments in healthcare policy.

Policy and Advocacy

Whether undertaken by Georgia Watch independently, or in concert with partner organizations, advocating for consumer-friendly policies at various levels of government has always been critical to HAP. It is our contact with consumers, and the information we gain from them, that gives Georgia Watch a unique perspective that we use when doing policy and advocacy work.

  • HAP approaches policy development with an open mind that focuses on the consumer and not a particular ideology.
    • Participated in the PCORI project to explore care provided by advanced practice registered nurses, telehealth technology, or school-based clinics in rural areas.
  • HAP gives consumers a voice in the State Legislature and monitors actions taken by federal and state administrative agencies that affect Georgia healthcare consumers.
  • HAP publishes policy papers on various healthcare access issues, with a particular focus on rural and vulnerable healthcare consumers’ needs:

Hospital Accountability

Holding hospitals accountable has been part of Georgia Watch’s health access work since 2007.  Given the state of public health and healthcare access in Georgia, coupled with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, this is a crucial time for consumer advocacy with federal and state agencies, as well as public and private stakeholders, like hospitals.

  • HAP educates healthcare consumers about hospital structures and the consumer protections that apply to nonprofit hospitals.
  • HAP holds nonprofit hospitals accountable for following new federal regulations concerning Community Health Needs Assessments and Financial Assistance Programs.  Throughout 2014, HAP reviewed and analyzed 38 Community Health Needs assessments and published a policy paper on the findings.
  • HAP advocates for state legislation and agency rules that keep nonprofit hospitals accountable for maintaining their tax-exempt status.

Healthcare AccessShort National Consumer Law Center guide for dealing with medical bills and debt.Dealing with Medical Debt: Consumer Advice from NCLC
Healthcare AccessAn up-to-date guide for uninsured individuals seeking low-cost healthcare.Accessing Affordable Healthcare: A Guide for the Uninsured
Medical BillsA resource from Georgia Watch on managing medical bills and medical debt.Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt
Healthcare AccessThe Indigent Care Trust Fund (ICTF) is a state-sponsored program that subsidizes care for low-income individuals at participating hospitals.Indigent Care Trust Fund
Medical BillsA resource for finding assistance with medical bills and medical debtMedical Bills: Find Help
Medical BillsA one-page resource from Georgia Watch on handling medical bills and avoiding surprise billsMedical Bills: Know Your Rights!
Hospital AccountabilityThe Metropolitan Atlanta Hospital Accountability Project examines the financial practices of metropolitan area not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals in regards to health care access and affordability.The Metropolitan Atlanta Hospital Accountability Project
Hospital AccountabilityFinancial assistance is a crucial component of the safety net system, as it provides a bridge to care for those who might otherwise not receive it.Health Voices: Financial Assistance at Hospitals
Hospital AccountabilityOn March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law. The law addresses the practices of private nonprofit hospitals and implements crucial consumer protections for billing and collections and hospital financial assistance policies.Hospitals and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Healthcare AccessGeorgia families are facing a crisis of affordable health as many struggle with exorbitant medical bills, chronic conditions and minimal access to adequate care.Healthcare Affordability in Georgia
Health InsuranceIn recent years, Georgia consumers have seen their health insurance premiums skyrocket with few resources to measure how their premium dollars are actually spent or what represents good value in an insurance policy.Medical Loss Ratio Rules: Ensuring Value for Georgia’s Health Care Consumers
Hospital AccountabilityMore than one million Georgians – about 12 percent – do not speak English at home. These Georgians may be Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning they cannot speak, read, write or understand the English language in a manner that allows them to effectively interact with health care providers.Language Access at Hospitals
Hospital AccountabilityHospitals are the central component of Georgia‘s vast and complicated health care system. As key health care providers that offer a wide range of services, these hospitals have a unique opportunity to help reduce access disparities for vulnerable populations – particularly those that are low-income, uninsured and underinsured.Georgia nonprofit hospitals, the provision of community benefits and the vulnerable patient
Hospital AccountabilityAn overview of hospital governance, operations and community benefits in Georgia.Georgia Hospital Primer
Healthcare AccessGeneral tips for accessing affordable healthcare.Healthcare Affordability Primer
Patient SafetyA guide to common consumer safety concerns found in healthcare settings.Patient Safety Primer