Consumer Assistance Programs Get $20 Million from HHS

By Ani Fete

Nearly $20 million was awarded to 21 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia last week to support consumer assistance efforts in states and local communities. This new federal funding from the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) will be used to help consumers understand their new rights and benefits under the Affordable Care Act. CAP grantees will help consumers identify coverage options, enroll in coverage, and file appeals for denied services. Many of the CAP grantees will also provide public education and outreach to consumers.

The following is a summary of some of the outreach- and enrollment-related efforts that the CAP grantees plan to conduct with these awards:

  • Arkansas ($360,879) – Arkansas will increase the number of consumer assistance program staff members who are dedicated to consumer outreach, education, and complaint resolution. In addition, Arkansas expects a significant increase in the need for consumer assistance services in 2014 and plans to use a portion of this award to increase the operational capacity of the program.
  • California ($4,635,952) – Funding will be used for the state to partner directly with local community organizations to provide direct consumer assistance, expand existing training materials for those organizations that provide consumer assistance, and develop consumer information specifically for seniors and individuals with disabilities.
  • Connecticut ($412,591) – In order to reach non-English/non-Spanish speaking populations, the state will identify and conduct outreach to these populations through new channels, including partnerships with trusted non-profit entities that have a history of strong relationships and outreach experience with these communities.
  • District of Columbia ($200,000) – DC will expand its marketing efforts for the existing consumer assistance program, specifically to the area’s Hispanic communities. In addition, there will be additional staff trainings and train-the-trainer opportunities on changes under the Affordable Care Act, including best practices in conducting outreach.
  • Florida ($2,344,000) – Funds have been awarded to the Department of Elder Affairs to assist clients with questions and to provide technical assistance about their health coverage. The state plans to support a network of toll-free hotlines, develop a media campaign around the existing services for the Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders (SHINE) CAP program while connecting consumers to other services and enrollment assistance (such as with CHIP and PCIP) that are not provided by the SHINE program.
  • Illinois ($1,208,195) – Plans include developing a consumer web portal and producing materials for consumers about new and existing consumer assistance services.
  • Kansas ($353,151) – The Kansas Insurance Department is planning to develop a public education campaign that educates residents about the consumer assistance services available in the state. The Insurance Department will collect data on the populations they wish to target with a media campaign; create outreach materials including TV, radio, printed, and social media materials; and conduct training for Insurance Department staff to improve staff capacity and expertise in consumer assistance.
  • Maine ($200,000) – Proposed outreach activities include strengthening referral relationships with public and private legal organizations, enhancing internet outreach, and establishing an innovative relationship with hospitals to assist consumers with health coverage issues.
  • Maryland ($716,856) – Maryland will conduct a mass transit outreach campaign to educate consumers about their options, including their new rights under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Massachusetts ($588,130) – Plans include educating consumers about their rights to health coverage, enrolling and assisting consumers in existing Massachusetts programs for premium assistance, tracking barriers to access and enrollment in order to inform policy makers, and building additional capacity for consumers through added access points with community-based organizations.
  • Michigan ($878,300) – Michigan will increase staff in the consumer call center, provide trainings, and expand statewide consumer outreach and education activities. This funding will also allow the hotline to continue the interpreter services that it currently provides.
  • Mississippi ($366,345) – The award will allow the Department of Insurance to open a new office and to work on consumer education and assistance efforts with two nonprofit organizations that have strong relationships with the Latino and Vietnamese communities. In addition, the department will partner with a third nonprofit that represents the interests of community health centers to provide expanded assistance to African Americans.
  • Missouri ($739,290) – Plans include increasing capacity to ensure there are enough staff members who are knowledgeable about health insurance complaints, conducting consumer education and outreach activities, and providing enrollment assistance.
  • Nevada ($344, 958) – Nevada will increase staff, including those who are bilingual in English and Spanish, to educate and provide resources to consumers as they navigate the health care system.
  • New Mexico ($278,059) – Funds will be used to develop and design a website, to leverage nonprofit partner expertise and capacity for outreach and education to consumers, and to conduct outreach to individuals in rural and impoverished areas.
  • New York ($2,300,000) – Plans will include capacity building with community-based organizations (CBO) to strengthen the state’s geographical reach and to provide additional services. The state also plans to provide trainings for CBOs on consumer education and to improve technical assistance to CBOs in upstate New York.
  • North Carolina ($1,187,698) – In addition to increasing the number of staff members who serve consumers, North Carolina will implement a statewide outreach program targeting specific populations via radio, internet, and print ads. In addition, there will be coordinated train-the-trainer events across the state to educate stakeholders on the consumer assistance program and the changes under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Northern Mariana Islands ($200,000) – A new consumer advocacy office will be established using these funds that will provide information and technical assistance to consumers about coverage options available now and after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. This office will also work closely with community-based partners to leverage resources for consumer assistance and outreach.
  • Oklahoma ($387,500) – Oklahoma plans to establish effective outreach programs to consumers, including developing educational materials related about consumer rights and responsibilities and partnering with statewide entities that currently provide direct services.
  • Oregon ($451,354) – Funding will be used to enhance capacity and quality by restoring and adding services to existing consumer assistance programming. Oregon will increase enrollment activity through a media marketing campaign that will target rural communities and communities of color.
  • Pennsylvania ($1,098,000) – Pennsylvania plans to create a mobile application that will allow consumers to ask questions and file complaints using their smart phones. Other plans include developing a live chat function on the consumer assistance website and developing social media-based outreach and education materials.
  • Rhode Island ($200,000) – Rhode Island will increase staff to support its consumer assistance program and to provide education about consumer rights.
  • Vermont ($200,000) – Vermont will increase staff to expand consumer assistance services, and it will work to address questions raised by the changes made by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Virgin Islands ($200,000) – Plans include increasing staff to support the consumer assistance program, providing training to staff on changes made by the Affordable Care Act, and supporting an extensive public education campaign to inform consumers about their new rights and responsibilities under the health care law.
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