Projects of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers

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    of Champaign County
residents (led by Mike Doyle), concerned
about the lack of citizen/consumer representation
on the local health planning board,
formed Champaign County Health Care
Consumers (CCHCC).
In the 1970s, the federal government
required the formation of local health planning
boards in order for communities to
make decisions about how to allocate
resources and federal funding for health care
at the local levels.
The federal government required that a
certain percentage of the members of each
local health planning board be made up of
“consumers” in order to ensure that the interests
of the people who use the health care system
be represented in the local decision-making
process. “Consumers” are distinguished
from health care “providers” (such as physicians,
hospital administrators, etc.).
This is where the Champaign County
Health Care Consumers got its name, and the
word “Consumers” refers to this federal government
distinction. CCHCC does not use
the name “Consumers” in a capitalistic sense
– this is not a reference to “purchasers” of
health care. In fact, it is CCHCC’s view that
health care is an essential service and should
not be a service left up to the “free market.”
“Consumers” is a statement
of the interests represented
by CCHCC, and those are
the interests of the people
who are supposed to be
served by the health care system.
At the time that CCHCC
got started, the “consumers”
on the local health planning
board were not truly representing
the interests of the
community, and especially
not the interests of lowincome
Champaign County
residents who had limited
access to health care as a
result of Medicaid discrimination or inability
to pay.
CCHCC struggled to make the community
aware of the local health planning board
and its role in the allocation of resources in
Champaign County, and to get real consumer
representatives elected to the Board. Shortly
after this struggle, CCHCC moved on to its
fight against Medicaid discrimination.
From its inception, CCHCC has organized
to increase the influence of consumers who
have traditionally been excluded from the
health care decision-making process. Twentysix
years and many victories later, CCHCC is
still empowering consumers to fight for quality,
affordable health care for all.
CCHCC is a non-profit, grassroots, citizen-
action organization
founded on the belief that
access to quality, affordable
health care is a basic human
right. Through CCHCC’s
community campaigns, people
realize that they can make
changes in the systems that
shape their lives. CCHCC has
over 6000 members who have
dedicated themselves to fighting
for justice in the health
care system. By engaging and
empowering consumers in the
struggle for improving health
care – at the local, state, and
national levels – CCHCC
works to better the day-to-day lives of people
in Champaign County and beyond.
CCHCC’s efforts have created the Consumer
Health Hotline, established a countywide
public health department, expanded
dental access for people with low incomes,
changed illegal and harmful medical billing
and debt collection practices, implemented
contraceptive coverage for women in
employee health coverage plans, and made
the local health care system more responsive
to consumer needs.
Throughout the years, CCHCC’s grassroots
work has received national attention,
and CCHCC is increasingly becoming a
national resource for other consumer advocacy
organizations. In addition, hospital executives
from around the country, government
officials, and policy makers frequently consult
with CCHCC on issues of medical debt
and collections, and other access-related
In September 2002, CCHCC was awarded
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s
Community Health Leadership Award, a
prestigious national honor. In 2003, CCHCC
was featured in the July/August issue of Lifetime
Magazine, and quoted in an August
issue of The Nation. Most recently, CCHCC’s
work resulted in a front page article of the
October 30, 2003 Wall Street Journal, which
focused on the use of “body attachments”
(warrants for arrest) and incarceration of
low-income people by local hospitals in their
collection efforts. This national story
revealed to the nation that a debtors’ prison
does indeed exist for people who owe money
for hospital bills.
Claudia will be giving a presentation at
6:30pm on November 15th in the Wisegarver
Lounge of the IDF building, corner of Sprignfield
and Wright in Champaign.

Claudia Lennhoff is the
Executive Director of the
Champaign County Health
Care Consumers (CCHCC).
She has worked as a community
organizer for
CCHCC for 7 years, and has been Executive
Director since 1999. In 2002, Claudia and
CCHCC received the Robert Wood Johnson
Community Health Leadership award for community
organizing efforts to increase access to
health care in Champaign County.

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