As Nation’s Health Law Moves Forward, Health Care Advocates Call on State to Apply for Consumer Assistance Program
July 4, 2012
Contact: Christine Sinatra (512) 473-2274
AUSTIN — A program Texas recently closed, which helps Texans identify their health care options and understand their rights with insurers, should be re-opened in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform, health advocates from 14 organizations told the Texas Department of Insurance in a letter today. Up to $3.2 million in federal funding is available for a Texas Consumer Health Assistance Program (CHAP), if the state applies. The program, which helps Texans navigate complex insurance rules and understand their health care options and benefits, closed in April after expending its initial federal grant funding.
“Consumers know that health care can be baffling, and many are bound to have even more questions with all the changes happening over the next 18 months under the Affordable Care Act,” said Stacey Pogue, senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Having the Consumer Health Assistance Program in place allows parents and grandparents to find ‘child-only’ coverage their families need. It means giving small businesses information about how to cover their employees more affordably. It ensures Texans with health conditions can enroll right away in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. In short, it’s about giving consumers answers at a time when there are more questions than ever about health care in our state.”
Earlier this year, Texas opted against applying for additional consumer assistance funding that the U.S. Health and Human Services Department made available. However, the new opportunity to receive a much larger grant, at no cost to Texas, is good reason to reconsider, the advocacy groups said in today’s letter to insurance commissioner Eleanor Kitzman today.
A poll of small business leaders conducted last month by Small Business Majority found that 7 out of 10 small business owners believe Texas should apply for available federal funding for CHAP. Up until the program was ended this spring, Texas CHAP gave answers to health care consumers’ questions with a toll-free hotline, online assistance and a multilingual staff, who could help Texans navigate complex insurance rules and understand their health care options and benefits. CHAP handled more than 12,000 calls from Texas consumers, suggesting a high demand and need for the service.
The Texas Well and Healthy Campaign is a broad, grassroots coalition working to ensure that every Texan has access to comprehensive and affordable health insurance. In the days ahead, we are releasing a series of ideas for how Texas can get moving on health care reform.