Before the health care law, individuals often had to fend for themselves when trying to find affordable health insurance or to resolve problems with existing coverage. These new Consumer Assistance Program grants will help make sure that consumers receive their new rights and benefits under the Affordable Care Act by providing nearly $20 million in new resources to help states and territories. These new grants will allow states, who are in some cases partnering with local non-profits, to help strengthen and enhance ongoing efforts in the states and local communities to protect consumers from some of the worst insurance industry practices.
These grants build on nearly $30 million in Consumer Assistance Program grants awarded to states and territories in 2010 and 2012. These new grants will be used to educate consumers about their health coverage options and new programs, empower consumers to avail themselves of new protections, ensure consumers have access to accurate information, and help consumers navigate the system to find the most affordable and secure coverage that meets their needs.
Using the grants, states and territories will:
- Help consumers enroll in health coverage;
- Help consumers file complaints and appeals against health plans;
- Educate consumers about their rights and empower them to take action; and
- Track consumer complaints to help identify problems and strengthen enforcement.
A summary of how each state or territory will use the new resources can be found at http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/rights/consumer-assistance-program/index.html.
Consumer Assistance Programs have benefited and will continue to benefit millions of Americans by providing them with information on insurance options and their rights under existing laws. For example, if an individual loses coverage through his employer, and he needs to find new coverage for him and his family, a Consumer Assistance Program can help determine his needs, identify options available from private and public insurers, and help him and his family enroll in a new plan or policy.
Additionally, these grants will fund programs that will support consumers both now as we transition to a more competitive, patient-centered health insurance marketplace in 2014 and once that new marketplace is established. These programs will help empower consumers and serve as their advocates, especially with regard to filing and resolving complaints and appeals. During the first year of the grant period, Consumer Assistance Program grantees recovered more than $18 million in savings on behalf of consumers. Thanks to this new grant program, these types of consumer assistance activities will continue and expand to benefit millions of additional Americans.