WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Kentucky Equal Justice Center was named the recipient of the Consumer Reports Excellence in Consumer Advocacy Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Thursday The group was recognized by Consumer Reports for its successful work over the years as a watchdog and advocate for low income and other vulnerable residents of the state.
The Consumer Reports Excellence in Advocacy Award is given to a small non-profit organization that has positively impacted the lives of consumers through policy advocacy or direct actions in the marketplace at the local, state, or national level. The award comes with a $25,000 cash prize to support the organization's work.
"The Kentucky Equal Justice Center works tirelessly to represent the interests of low income residents of Kentucky," said Jim Guest, President and CEO of Consumer Reports. "Time and time again, the group has served as a powerful voice for the state's most vulnerable residents and won important reforms that have made a real difference in the lives of so many. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center serves as an exemplary model for community organizations working to protect consumers and bring fairness to the marketplace."
Founded in 1976, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center has a long record of achievement on a number of consumer issues. Most recently, the group played a key role in helping to ensure the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Kentucky. Kentucky has been touted for operating one of the most effective state-run health insurance exchanges and has provided coverage to over 122,000 low income residents through expansion of its Medicaid program. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center has worked to help state residents take full advantage of the new law and was a strong supporter of the Medicaid expansion effort.
In addition, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center was instrumental in making sure that health insurers in the state would be subject to tough new rules under the ACA that require 80 cents of every premium dollar to be spent on care instead of covering administrative costs. When the state proposed a temporary change to 65 cents, the group opposed the move and helped win a compromise of 75 cents for one year, and then 80 cents. The change helped save an estimated $1.3 million for Kentuckians in 2013.
The Kentucky Equal Justice Center also helped lead a coalition effort to protect $45 million in charitable assets when the nonprofit Kentucky Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged with Anthem. The funds protected through this successful campaign were used to create the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which has provided millions of dollars in grants to address unmet health care needs in the state.
The group filed a successful class action lawsuit in 2003 to restore long term care to nearly 3,500 state residents after the state terminated their care under the Medicaid program. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center also helped win a change to the "homestead exemption" to protect Kentuckians from losing their homes in bankruptcy. Medical debt is a driving factor in personal bankruptcy.
"It's just delightful that work by a small organization, persistently and well over a long period of time, will even be noticed," said Rich Seckel, Director of the Kentucky Equal Justice Center. "We deeply appreciate it." A video produced by Consumer Reports on the Kentucky Equal Justice Center can be found here.
In addition to its consumer work, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center has partnered with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic to provide legal assistance to low income clients, primarily in the areas of immigration and employment law.
SOURCE Consumer Reports