Some States Will Make It Easier To Get Insurance Answers
Who are you going to call for help when it comes to figuring out your health insurance?
Next year, when insurance marketplaces open under the federal health law and many job-based and individual plans have to meet new standards for coverage and costs, chances are that lots of people are going to need a hand navigating the system.
Depending on where they live, some will probably have an easier time of it than others.
What states will do to help people vary widely. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have consumer assistance programs
in place to handle questions and complaints about all aspects of private health insurance. The federal funds for these insurance helpers come through the Affordable Care Act.
Many Republican-led states didn't apply for the grants, however, and funding remains uncertain
. In states that don't have an assistance program, people can call their state insurance department or ombudsman's office. Some community-based organizations offer help with health insurance issues as well.
Consumers and small businesses will also be able to get help learning about and signing up for the online health insurance exchanges through so-called navigators that will be named later this summer. In addition, the exchanges will have toll-free call centers.
The extent to which comprehensive assistance is available, however, may vary widely by state
. "Particularly because a lot of states have taken an oppositional approach [to the ACA], there are a lot of questions about where consumers should go with questions," says Sabrina Corlette, a research professor who directs Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reforms. "A lot of it is unsettled right now."