Texas Won’t Seek Available Funding to Help Health Care Consumers

UPDATE: July 13, 2012: Today, the Texas Department of Insurance relayed it would not apply for $3 million in available funds for a consumer health assistance program. To our dismay, the press release below is needed for a second time.

Original post: May 18, 2012                                                Contact: Christine Sinatra: (512) 853-0506

AUSTIN — A program that helped thousands of Texans identify their health care options and understand their rights with their insurers will remain closed, because the Texas Department of Insurance has opted against applying for the funding that a federal agency made available. Texas is one of 38 states eligible for a Health and Human Services Department grant to maintain a Consumer Health Assistance Program (CHAP). Up until April of this year, Texas CHAP provided answers to health care consumers’ questions with a toll-free hotline, online assistance and a multilingual staff, who could help Texans navigate complex insurance rules and understand their health care options and benefits.

“This is a crucial time for health care consumers, and Texans need assistance—we know because thousands of them contacted Texas CHAP,” said Stacey Pogue, senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “To keep the doors closed now, at a time when so much is in flux with people’s health insurance rights and benefits, is unwise and unnecessary, given that the new funding is available.”

The decision by the Texas Department of Insurance was relayed today to the 20  health-focused organizations in the state that had submitted a letter urging the agency to apply for a grant to maintain CHAP functions, according to the advocates.

“For over a year, Texas CHAP improved the health care system by helping consumers get the information they need,” said Bee Moorhead of Texas Impact, a network of faith-based advocates that was among the signers to the letter. “This is a missed opportunity for Texas and for so many privately insured Texans, who would have had a place to go with questions that, frankly, are sometimes about life-and-death matters of coverage.”

The Consumer Health Assistance Program was created in 2010 under the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health care reform law, and took more than 12,000 calls from Texans with health care questions from 2010 through last month, when the program closed after expending its federal grant funding.

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The Texas Well and Healthy Campaign is a broad, grassroots coalition working to ensure that every Texan has access to comprehensive and affordable health insurance. It is a collaboration of members of Cover Texas Now and other health care coalitions in the state. Learn more about the campaign http://texaswellandhealthy.org

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