Applying New Protections to Your Health Plan

By Karen Pollitz, Director for Consumer Support, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Cross-post from Healthcare.gov

HMO. PPO. COBRA. Participating Provider. Allowable charges. Claim Denied. Sometimes it seems like health insurance is in a whole different language.

Knowing the Affordable Care Act protections are in place is one thing; but applying them to our own health plans or policies is another. Who doesn’t need help figuring out what it all means—starting with the terms of our coverage?

Today I’d like to tell you how you can put new protections and options to work for you.

Health insurance problems are difficult enough to sort through in the midst of our fast-paced lives, and they can be overwhelming when we’re facing illness or injury.

That’s why the Affordable Care Act included resources to strengthen existing or new Consumer Assistance Programs like the one that helped the Schley family maneuver the marketplace. If you need help with a health insurance problem or have a question about coverage or benefits, you can find out where to go in your state for help.

Our interactive Consumer Assistance Program Map , on HealthCare.gov will show you where you can find someone who “speaks insurance.” For consumers in states that didn’t apply for Consumer Assistance Program grants, the map offers links to a variety of public programs that may also be able to offer some assistance.

As you can see, there is a lot to celebrate in the first year. But, there is more to come down the road, and new rules will provide additional benefits to consumers. You will be hearing about new rules regarding more transparency in the marketplace so that consumers can be more informed about what services will be covered in plans.

And, starting in 2014, new state Health Insurance Exchanges will create more convenient and competitive marketplaces for individuals and small businesses. That same year, insurers will no longer be allowed to exclude anyone based on a pre-existing health conditions, which will offer more protection for consumers and increase access to care.

There is still plenty of work to do over the next few years. But first steps are important, and the consumer protections enacted through the Patient’s Bill of Rights this year have helped get us moving toward important changes for consumers. All Americans will benefit through the lower premiums, more efficient care, and other cost savings as the law unfolds over the next few years.

Ed note: this is the third in a series of three blogs about consumer protections made available thanks to the Affordable Care Act.