While some state agencies are running deficits this year, the Office of the Health Care Advocate is earning its keep by saving Connecticut consumers more than $4 million in 2007.

Run by the State Health Care Advocate Kevin Lembo, the independent state agency ensures consumers have access to quality health care and may be the best bargain in state government.

“While healthcare costs continue to rise, we are thrilled to put money back in consumers’ pockets,” Lembo said in a press release. The office saved consumers $1.6 million more in 2007 than it did in 2006 when it saved them $2.8 million.

“Most of us cannot afford to pay for medical treatments that are not covered by insurance, so the insurance company’s denial of coverage is in reality a denial of care,” Lembo said.

One of Lembo’s goals this year is to educate health insurance consumers about the need to stand up for their rights.

In order to make it easier for consumers to understand their rights when insurance companies deny claims, Lembo plans on offering new information on insurance appeals on the OHA website and in newsletters to consumers and providers.

“Outreach and education never end,” Lembo said. “We need to make it easier for consumers to understand their right to appeal denials, and to know when they should contact our office for assistance.”

The $4.4 million savings in 2007 not only represents the office’s hard work and effective advocacy, but signals the need for reform in the health insurance system.

“We will continue to advocate for legislative answers to persistent problems,” Lembo said. “Consumers should not need to fight so hard to get the care they need and deserve.”