In all the Iowa excitement of today, it’s entirely possible that Sarah Kliff’s excellent piece in yesterday’s WaPo will be missed. That’s a tragedy. It’s really important.
I get that there are small government adherents who hate the ACA. I get you don’t like the exchanges, or the mandates, or regulations. But Consumer Health Assistance Programs?
A $2.8 million grant allowed the state to hire nine employees to staff a toll-free hotline. More than 6,000 Texans called in during the past year, seeking advice on how to find affordable coverage, or help filling out an insurance application, or fighting a denied claim. The new employees traversed the state, hosting more than 160 events aimed at making Texans — a quarter of whom lack insurance — more aware of coverage options.
“The grant provided us with the opportunity to . . . actually take the 20 or 30 minutes, or however long, to help someone complete an application,” said Audrey Seldin, senior associate commissioner for consumer protection at the Texas Department of Insurance, which oversees the program.
All these programs do is help people find insurance that already exists. If you want to look at it another way, it’s likely helping private insurance companies by finding them customers and helping them apply. It’s also helping people to fight for money they are owed, but being denied:
Since the grant started, Maine Consumers for Affordable Care has netted consumers $23,000 in insurance appeals, with an additional $53,000 on the line in pending cases.
“We haven’t lost one yet,” Mia Poliquin Pross, associate director of the Maine consumer assistance program, said of the claim denials her two attorneys have appealed. “We would really like to ramp up that portion of the work.”
And, as Congress argues about billions (or even trillions), this program costs millions overall. Plus, it was putting people to work.
So what’s the problem? Congress can’t pass a budget. Without a budget, people suffer. When do they come back to work again?