A free consumer help desk for buyers of health insurance has been started by the North Carolina Insurance Department. Health Insurance Smart NC aims to help beneficiaries of health care understand their options and rights.
Assistance is offered online or by telephone to consumers covered by private health insurance, group health plans, state and federal high-risk pools, and other kinds of public health coverage.
Mr Wayne Goodwin, the state's insurance commissioner said that the need of the hour is the source for accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information about health insurance for the public.
The federal Affordable Care Act is pumping $1.2 million into the program.
The program helps consumers by filing complaints or appeals with insurers; identifying enrollment options with insurers; helping consumers understand their rights and responsibilities with their coverage; requesting an external review if a claim was denied.
According to Kerry Hall, a spokesman for the department, a case management model is being used and each case is being assigned to a health-insurance specialist who assists with the case until the question or complaint is resolved.
Some insurers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C., have links on their website that enable consumers to review options and recommendations on health-care facilities. The insurer declined to comment on the department's program.
In April, Blue Cross launched two websites www.letstalkcost.com and www.blueasksyounc.com along with TV commercials statewide that emphasize that many parties share the blame for rising health costs. The message is that those groups, including insurers, doctors, hospitals, drug companies, lawyers and consumers, must work together to reduce medical costs.