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Post date: August 27 1999

Consumers Warned About Improper Hmo Practices

As part of a continuing effort to educate consumers about their health care rights, Attorney General Spitzer today opened a public information booth at the State Fair and announced a grant to one of the state's leading public advocacy groups.

Citizen Action of New York will use the $20,000 grant to fund a series of initiatives that will augment the Attorney General's existing health care consumer education campaign. These initiatives include:

  • Producing and distributing a new "Consumer's Guide to New York's Managed Care Bill of Rights;"
  • Sponsoring training sessions for health care advocates and providers on consumer rights; and,
  • Hosting a series of forums across the state on health care issues.

The grant comes from settlements the Attorney General secured from health plans that were found to be violating aspects of the state's Managed Care Consumer Bill of Rights.

"We are focused on identifying and addressing health plan policies and procedures that undermine the delivery of timely and effective health care," Spitzer said. "We are committed to enforcing the state's health care consumer protection laws and we appreciate Citizen Action's efforts to educate New Yorkers on their legal rights."

Spitzer's office will maintain a booth at the Fair with materials to help consumers make more informed health care decisions. In addition, staff members will be available to assist consumers with questions about issues such as how to choose a health plan and how to ensure the fullest possible medical coverage.

Richard Kirsch, Executive Director of Citizen Action, said: "This grant from the Attorney General's office will help enable us to educate New York consumers about their legal rights and how to get the health care they and their families need."

Spitzer and Kirsch were joined at the Fair by Marshall Blake, President of 1199 Upstate, one of the state's top labor organizations representing thousands of upstate health care workers. Blake said: "Our members are especially pleased with the grant provided by the Attorney General because they know an informed public is the best assurance of quality health care."

New York State passed the Managed Care Consumer Bill of Rights in 1996, and statute became fully effective in April 1997. The law, which was the result of a lobbying effort by Citizen Action and other groups, gives health care consumers a broad range of specific rights, such as the ability to make formal complaints about services received or denied.

The Attorney General has made enforcement of this legislation a top priority. His office has an ongoing investigation into HMO compliance with the law. Earlier this spring, the office identified several health plans that were requiring members to check with HMO representatives before seeking emergency medical care. Such "pre-approval" policies are expressly prohibited under the law. The office is working to correct this and other problems.