Colorado Gives Day is finally here! Donate to CCHI today to ensure your dollars help further access to equitable, high-quality health care for all Coloradans.
For our final installment of profiles, we will be featuring the stories of community members CCHI has worked with this year. Follow along as Joseph McGrail, Gail deVore, and Dana Bennett tell their stories and endorse CCHI’s consumer protection and advocacy work!
Joseph McGrail, Consumer Assistance Program Client
Last year my doctor told me to go immediately to a specific hospital for emergency treatment. My insurance company refused to pay the bill, saying it was out of network. After several months of struggling to get them to cover the bill, or get the hospital to redo their billing codes in a way that would get it covered, I simply gave up and started paying the several thousand dollars of the bill.
On a friend’s advice, I called Stephanie of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. She was very helpful, gave me advice, patiently listened to my concerns, looked over the numerous pages of documents generated in this dispute, and strongly encouraged me to file an appeal of the insurance company’s decision with the state Division of Insurance. She offered further help should I need it. I filed the appeal, resulting in the insurance company almost immediately reversing the decision and deciding to cover the entire bill. Thanks to Stephanie’s help, my anxiety about this stressful situation was relieved and I saved several thousand dollars.
Gail deVore, Individual Member and Health Care Advocate
How did you get involved with CCHI?
Gail: I learned about CCHI through volunteering to share my story about the costs to stay alive with Type 1 diabetes.
What made you choose to be involved with CCHI?
Gail: CCHI is a respected organization that is doing excellent work to represent consumer health care needs in Colorado. I am honored to be able to participate with CCHI’s policy committee, along with other organizations that have a voice in directing policies on behalf of Coloradans.
Would you consider yourself an advocate? What does that mean to you?
Gail: I am an advocate for all who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and other chronic illnesses whom encounter the high price of staying alive. In nearly 50 years of living with T1D, the cost of insulin and other medications has escalated just recently. The sudden escalation cannot be explained logically since many medications should be off-patent and are eligible for generic competition, yet, we have no generic options and no market competition that would normally drive the price lower. Being faced with the choice of paying for insulin or buying groceries or paying rent is not a decision ANYONE should ever have to make. I am fortunate to be able to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak or don’t know they can.
What are your goals as a consumer advocate for the coming future and/or what are you looking forward to?
Gail: I am working to educate others who are faced with these devastating decisions so they too can ask their legislators for assistance. I hope that we can generate a larger contingent to make sure our needs are heard by those in a position to help us. The more voices that are enabled, the better the chances we will be able to be heard.
What is something you have appreciated about CCHI and something you hope to see from CCHI in the future?
Gail: CCHI has been instrumental in advocating for patient needs, drug costs, and coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. I hope that CCHI will continue to support patients in our quest for legislation to protect us all.
Dana Bennett, Consumer Assistance Program Client
I found out about the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative from Ashley Wheeland, a candidate for office, when she knocked on my door. We chatted for just a few minutes and I shared a little of my story about being sick for many years, having a liver transplant, but now being completely financially drained, a far too common occurrence in the US now. Ashley, who had worked as an advocate at CCHI, recommended I get in touch with the agency and I’d get the help I needed.
Who knew just answering your door on a Sunday afternoon would bring you precisely the help you needed?
When I finally made contact, Stephanie Arenales and I began our journey together to get financial assistance from my healthcare providers, from the state and county services available, and even my out-of-state provider.
Frankly, when I met Stephanie, I was a mess – had stopped opening mail, my paperwork was in complete disarray. And I thought I was hopeless. But Stephanie kept plugging away at the problems before us, one step at a time, always encouraging me to take the next step – on my own. And finally, as I saw the results of her work, and then finally my own efforts, I saw the progress we were making and the easing of stress for me.
This process with Stephanie – the way she would ask questions, the times she would do something, and then next ask me to make some calls myself – was, all of it, completely empowering for me.
I had gone through eleven years of illness and then two more years post-transplant in a grieving/depression slump. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But CCHI and Stephanie stuck by me and the results, some huge, some tiny, kept coming in.
CCHI gave me back my hope. That’s what I want others going through similar episodes in their lives to know. You will have your hope restored, and have help doing it, too.
There are so many reasons the general population should support an agency like CCHI. The government doesn’t provide any personalized, overall service like this anywhere. The individual is parceled out to many agencies and in that system it is very easy to lose direction and hope. CCHI is a non-profit agency that costs the persons they’re helping zero dollars. If you partake in their services, the paybacks are enormous and satisfying. And you have your own personal cheerleader!
My one big takeaway from my experience with CCHI? I am finally looking FORWARD to my future now. It looks pretty darn good to me.
Thank you again for following along with us as we profile members of our community working towards equitable access to affordable, high-quality health care in Colorado.
If you support our work, take a moment this Colorado Gives Day to schedule a donation. Your generosity ensures we can advocate for the consumer perspective in health care and assist folks like Joseph and Dana in navigating the complex world of health insurance, empowering consumers to become champions of their own health care along the way. To read more about our new Consumer Assistance Program, click here!