Through the work that we do – providing one-on-one free services, advocacy, and community organizing – Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) is changing lives for the better.
I am writing to ask for your financial support and involvement to help CCHCC carry out our work – the kind of work that has a profound and concrete impact on people’s lives. The kind of work that helps people when they are suffering and have no place else to turn. The kind of work that inspires volunteers and staff members and changes the course of their lives. The kind of work that empowers affected community members to organize to win real victories, where before there was injustice and hopelessness. This is the kind of work for which we are asking your support.
Through our service programs and community organizing campaigns, CCHCC is changing the lives of our clients, our advocates and volunteers, the individuals involved in our community organizing campaigns, and our staff members. But don’t take my word for it – read what people whose lives we’ve changed have to say about CCHCC.
Consumer Health Hotline: Lily and Mihaita’s Story
CCHCC’s Consumer Health Hotline provides free one-to-one direct services to individuals who are having problems with the health care system. The Hotline receives over 400 calls each month, and many are from individuals with very complex needs who have not found help anywhere else. Yadira Montoya is CCHCC’s Hotline Coordinator, and she wrote the following about one of her clients:
This case exemplifies the different and important aspects of our work with clients through the Hotline: advocacy, information, and referral services.
Last year one of my clients, Lily, and her husband, Mihaita, walked in to the office late in the afternoon in August. Mihaita was a cancer patient in dire need of dental care, as his oral health had been rapidly deteriorating due to the radiation treatment he had received as part of chemotherapy. In fact, his teeth were in such bad shape that it was impairing his ability to eat and speak. This painful situation had been going on for several years. Mihaita needed an expensive oxygen
treatment to preserve his jaw (which had become fragile from radiation), oral surgery to have 15 teeth extracted, and dentures. Lily and Mihaita had been to numerous dental offices but none were willing to work with them to set up a payment plan that would be affordable for a low-income uninsured couple. Seeking assistance at CCHCC through the Hotline was literally their last hope.
Over the course of three months, I assisted my client in obtaining the dental care he desperately needed. First, I informed Lily and Mihaita about local programs such as Carle’s Community Care Discount Program and CCHCC’s Dental Referral Program (DRP). I also advocated on his behalf to the hospital that treated his cancer years earlier. I convinced them to cover the cost of his oral surgery on the basis that health care providers should be vested in a patient’s continuity of care. On October 25, 2010 my client completed his 4-week oxygen treatment. Soon after, he saw an oral surgeon and had all of his teeth extracted. Now, this month, Mihaita will receive dentures at a discounted rate. Additionally, Mihaita’s approval for hospital financial assistance makes it possible for him to get ongoing medical care.
My work with Lily and Mihaita was in line with the Hotline motto, which is to empower clients to develop the skills necessary to obtain the medical care they need. Lily was instrumental in coordinating Mihaita’s treatment, including completing applications, scheduling appointments, and keeping me updated on the health of her husband. The following quote demonstrates Lily’s deep appreciation for the work we do through the Hotline.
In very hard times for my family, when everywhere we turned for help, the doors failed to open and most eyes averted our pleas for help, you were very kind to listen, take a commitment, and work hard to act upon your words. Dealing with cancer is by far one of the most challenging burdens in one’s life and you seem to understand it in unique ways. For my husband, the radiation damages in his mouth turned his life into a daily hell affecting all of us for years. You did not simply nod, turn your back, and roll your eyes. You put your amazing energy and skill at work and succeeded in getting medical arrangements for treatment when the least amount of hope was lost. We thank you from our hearts for your perseverance and patience that bore results we [could] never imagine to happen in such a short time.
Medicare 100/Plus Program: Jude Love’s Story
One of the excellent services that CCHCC offers for our community is the Medicare 100/Plus Program. The Medicare 100/Plus Program is a collaboration between CCHCC and Provena Covenant and Provena United Medical Centers to offer discounted care for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. This program has helped our members to save thousands of dollars on costly surgeries and hospital stays and allowed them to focus on getting well instead of worrying how they are going to pay their medical bills. Often, when seniors come to us to sign up for Medicare 100/Plus, they have other needs that are not being met as well, and our staff helps them find other resources and programs that can help them. Anne Gargano Ahmed is the Coordinator of the Medicare 100/Plus Program, and she wrote the following about how CCHCC made a difference in the life of one of her clients.
Jude Love came to CCHCC in the fall of 2007 looking for help paying for her medical bills. Jude was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and was happy to be cancer-free after a long year of difficult and exhausting treatments. Unfortunately, beating the cancer was not the end of her battle. Jude was left with a pile of bills for the months of costly treatments and, although she had Medicare, she still had huge out-of-pocket costs. To make matters worse, the calling center where Jude worked closed down, leaving her with no job and no way to pay those bills. When Jude came to CCHCC, she was very overwhelmed and felt like she had nowhere to turn. I sat down with Jude to discuss her options and signed her up for the Medicare 100/Plus Program. Jude was approved for a 100% discount and was very relieved when all of her Provena bills were written off. Based on her income, I realized that Jude would also be eligible for Medicaid, food stamps, and the energy assistance program, LIHEAP, so I helped her apply for those programs. Jude had been struggling to pay several large bills at Christie Clinic, and when Christie notified Jude that the remainder of her bills would be paid by Medicaid, she was so overjoyed that she cried. When Jude beat her cancer, she thought that her battle was over. However, the constant anxiety of never-ending bills and struggling to find a job as a senior citizen was enough to make her sick. She is very thankful for the help that CCHCC has provided to give her some peace of mind. Jude’s situation has inspired her to do what she can to help other seniors like herself and is now a member of CCHCC’s Medicare Task Force and volunteers in the CCHCC office once a week.
Through a series of unexpected events in my life, I fell into some tough economic times. I felt so ashamed to be in this situation and dealing with government agencies made me feel humiliated. But then I found CCHCC. Anne treated me with respect and dignity and showed me what programs are out there for me to take advantage of. CCHCC has helped me to deal with the woes that go along with the aging process and showed me that there is help out there to get the care that I need and deserve. CCHCC gave me a lot of hope in my golden years and that is a big thing. I don’t know what I would have done without them and cannot thank them enough.
— Jude Love
Former Staff & Volunteer Stories
CCHCC’s work changes the lives of the clients we serve. But it also changes the lives of the volunteers, advocates, and staff members who see the injustices in the health care system and work with clients to help them, while also seeking larger solutions to systemic problems. Volunteers, advocates, and staff learn that it is possible to both help individuals, and to make systemic changes, and this experience is frequently so profound, that it changes the course of their lives and many go on to do social justice work in other communities.
Greg Beck, Staff Attorney at Public Citizen – Former CCHCC Hotline Advocate
I started volunteering at CCHCC as a law student when I discovered the ways that local hospitals were abusing the justice system against people in medical debt. So-called “charity” hospitals were coercing people to agree to payment plans they could never afford, then dragging them into court – or even having them arrested – when they failed to pay on time. CCHCC had the energy and organization to fight the problem, not only by counseling individual debtors through the Hotline but also by pressuring the hospitals to change their ways. After law school, I became a staff attorney at a national consumer-rights group – Public Citizen – but CCHCC has continued to be an inspiration for me. Having worked with consumer advocates throughout the country, I can say that it is extremely rare to find a grassroots organization with the passion and effectiveness of CCHCC.
— Greg Beck, Staff Attorney at Public Citizen – Check out Greg’s work at: http://www.citizen.org/
Brooke Anderson, Community Organizer with EBASE – Former CCHCC Community Organizer
I first met CCHCC as a 17-year old freshman in college at the University of Illinois when I joined a campaign by CCHCC and United Citizens and Neighbors which successfully shut down the two medical waste incinerators at our hospitals, which had been poisoning residents in the surrounding communities. I have fond memories of filming the smoke stacks at night, going door-to-door talking to residents, attending EPA meetings, and planning huge marches! I will never forget the day that we won, and what it felt like to win. What has kept me in the fight a decade later is having learned early on that it is possible not just to fight, but to actually win.
I was hooked on organizing and on CCHCC. For life. After college, I eventually made my way back to CCHCC to have the honor and privilege of contributing to campaigns for dental access, SSI disability rights, the rights of dialysis patients, contraceptive coverage and emergency contraception, against unjust medical debt practices. Our incredible member leaders at CCHCC left an indelible mark on my memory, from patients who had been sued and literally thrown in jail for inability to pay exorbitant monthly payments on their medical bills, to young women fighting for access to reproductive health care services. I remain in touch with several of them nearly a decade later. At CCHCC, I learned that healthy communities start at the grassroots with powerful communities who know their rights and how to fight for them. I learned that what seem like small fights in small towns in central Illinois make statewide and national policy impacts. I’ve carried these lessons with me in my current work and will love CCHCC forever.
Since 2005, I have been working in Oakland, CA with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. At EBASE, I’ve been proud to pass an unprecedented living
wage and workload standards policy for hotel housekeepers which has ended unsafe workloads and generated $1.2 million dollars in wage increases for hospitality workers to date. Currently, I’m serving as the worker organizer for the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports in Oakland, of which EBASE is a member. Every day, I am blessed to work with some 2,000 mostly immigrant truck drivers who service the Port of Oakland. Drivers earn less than minimum wage, lack health care, are routinely denied access to the bathroom for hours at a time, and work with dangerous equipment with no workers compensation. Meanwhile, 87 million residents in the U.S. breathe dirty air due to port pollution, including the low-income residents of West Oakland. For too long, we’ve been told we can have jobs OR a clean environment. We reject that thinking. Instead, a bold alliance of 150 organizations have united against pollution and poverty at our nation’s ports and are holding the dirty port trucking industry accountable for both good jobs and clean air.
— Brooke Anderson, Worker Organizer for The Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports – www.cleanandsafeports.org/
Community Organizing Campaigns
CCHCC also changes the lives of the community members involved in our grassroots community organizing campaigns. Through our community organizing work, affected consumers and residents learn that they can come together and fight for justice, even when it seems impossible. CCHCC’s 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign is an environmental justice campaign to fight for the rights of the Champaign residents living near a toxic site owned by Ameren. Two resident leaders whose lives have been changed by this Campaign wanted to share their sentiments about working with CCHCC.
5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign – Mr. Ebbie Cook and Mr. M. D. Pelmore
This is from the heart. We want to thank Claudia, Grant and all the CCHCC staff, volunteers and the consultants that came all the way from California. They enlightened us about what’s happening in our neighborhood. I don’t know what we would have done without these people. We didn’t know what was going on, we didn’t know about toxic benzene and all that, but they enlightened us about it and now we are aware of it and what’s going on. I just want to say, from my heart, thank you to the whole staff and anyone else connected with the 5th & Hill Neighborhood Rights Campaign. — Mr. Ebbie Cook
We just love all these people that came out and worked with us and told us all about this toxic stuff that was going on, we wouldn’t have
known anything about it. I thank one and all that they came out and did some wonderful work; you just don’t know what we have went through. They say don’t give up, and there was a time when we thought we would have had to give up, but they stuck with us and we stuck with them. I’m so proud of them and I can’t say enough about how they helped us. Thank you! — Mr. M. D. Pelmore
CCHCC’s work changes lives for the better – whether it’s the lives of our clients who find hope and help where before there was none, or the lives of the community members we help organize to address an injustice, or the lives of our volunteers, advocates, and staff members who get “hooked” on social justice work and go on to continue that work in other organizations in other communities.
I hope you will consider supporting CCHCC with a financial contribution or with your involvement in our work (or both!) so that we can continue the work of changing lives for the better. To make a contribution to CCHCC, click here. Add your name to our email list here.
As always, thank you for your support and your involvement!
Claudia Lennhoff, Executive Director
44 East Main Street, Suite 208 – Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 352-6533 – cchcc@HealthCareconsumers.org – www.HealthCareconsumers.org