The Affordable Care Act is supporting a program to help Mainers who are having trouble finding, keeping, or using health insurance. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new interactive map at to make sure that Maine residents know how to contact their state consumer assistance program.
“We are putting the resources of the Affordable Care Act at the fingertips of consumers all across the country – and the new map is an important part of that effort,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Consumers no longer have to wonder where to turn when they have questions about their health insurance.”
The interactive consumer assistance map went live as states around the country and U.S. territories are using federal grant dollars to establish or strengthen consumer assistance programs. Maine is one of 40 states or territories receiving grant funds.
Consumer assistance programs are run by state governments, sometimes in partnership with local non-profit organizations. Mane’s consumer assistance program is provided through the non-profit agency Consumers for Affordable Health Care. The organization has trained caseworkers who can help Mainers enroll in a health insurance plan or file a complaint or appeal with their insurer. They can also help consumers learn about the new insurance resources and reforms under the Affordable Care Act. Consumer assistance programs will also help explain the new consumer protections and options that will become available as additional parts of the health care law take effect in 2014.
In addition to helping consumers on an individual basis, the consumer assistance program in Maine will be tracking complaints to help identify potential trends in the health insurance market. Regulators can use this information to ensure that insurers are playing by the rules and consumers are receiving all their rights and protections under the law.
The website also includes the health insurance finder, a tool to bring information about and links to health insurance plans into one place and make it easier for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance choices.
“Consumers across the country have new options and protections under the Affordable Care Act,” said Sebelius. “These tools will help empower consumers to get the health care and health coverage they and their families need.”
In Maine, the Office of the Attorney General, in coordination with the Bureau of Insurance, was awarded $135,000 in October 2010 to perform the following activities:
- Assist consumers, both by phone and through walk-in service, with filing appeals and complaints.
- Provide information on the external appeals processes.
- Establish a hotline and hire a staff member to respond to incoming calls.
- Provide consumers with the resources to contact the Consumer Assistance Program.
- Educate consumers about their rights and responsibilities with respect to their group health plan or health insurance coverage, through an aggressive field campaign of community meetings.
- Assist consumers with enrollment in group health plans or in obtaining health insurance coverage by providing information and referrals to the most appropriate plans available to them.
- Provide one-on-one assistance to consumers to help them navigate and understand their insurance options.
- Expand current services to include a component that assists consumers in obtaining premium tax credits.
- Collect, track and quantify problems encountered and inquiries made by consumers.