From Salon Owner To One of California's Most Respected Health Care Voices
In 1993—following a severe traumatic injury to her jaw that resulted in acute Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ/TMD) Disorder—Liz Helms learned what it meant to be invisible within a California healthcare system that chose profits over patients, failed to acknowledge the needs of many, and worse, a changing industry that had until then, operated with near impunity. That was then …before the once small business shop-owner-turned-advocate decided that the old rules were insufficient to manage the state’s growing health consumer population and their challenges.
If she and the state’s then 32 million others were to survive the transformation of private insurance to a system dominated by HMO and PPO care plans, consumers were going to have to be better educated, standards of care would need the protections afforded by state law, and the insurance industry itself would have to become more responsive and transparent.
In 1995, Liz founded the non-profit (501c), TMJ Society of California, an advocacy organization to advance the treatment of, and right to insurance coverage for those who, like herself, had suffered a traumatic muscular-facial jaw injury, and spearheaded a movement that resulted in passage of AB 2994, the Jaw Joint Bill.
When One Voice Becomes A Chorus of Many
Having been educated early on to the disparities suffered by so many with chronic or acute illnesses, Liz lead a kitchen-table coalition of committed professionals into a statewide coalition of some 80 stakeholders to support a citizen’s ‘Right to Know’.
Representing tens of thousands of California residents who found themselves lost in a system lacking access to quality care and complicated, if not hidden policy agendas, Liz has told her story and that of others on the floor of the California state legislature during numerous hearings over the years, as well as before congress of the United States and the National Institutes of Health, each time breaking through barriers of indifference to put a face on those often left behind in their considerations and deliberations of law.
Over the course of twenty years, the name Liz Helms has become synonymous with coalition building, grassroots advocacy, strategic planning and progressive policy development, capable of bridging relationships that had in the past, maintained a distant, if not oppositional status.
On behalf of California consumers, in 2006, she forged new ground as the CEO and President of the California Chronic Care Coalition, contributing valuable policy insight for California health reform in 2007 and during the drafting of the ACA, uniting the chronic disease community throughout the state.
Through Liz’s stewardship of the heralded Right Care Initiative, San Diego became the first California community to begin working toward achieving a heart attack and stroke-free zone.
She continues to expand the outreach and partnership efforts of the Chronic Care Coalition throughout California inspiring multi-front cardiovascular care initiatives within under-served communities, and played a pivotal in a vital 2015 ruling by Covered California to limit individual out-of-pocket costs for acute, chronic care patients in need of expensive, life-saving drugs that had been classified outside of standard drug formularies by insurance companies.
Her work on behalf of patients’ rights and advocacy has helped millions.
The CCCC represents an estimated 16 million Californians with chronic medical conditions through a unique alliance of over thirty leading non-profit consumer health organizations, physician and provider groups. Our coalition is dedicated to developing a system of care that is accessible, affordable and high quality. Our primary goal promotes prevention, early diagnosis, coordination of care, utilizing best practices that are evidence-based and support wellness, quality of life and longevity. For more information, visit: http://www.chroniccareca.org.