The state Office of the Healthcare Advocate announced Wednesday that it saved consumers $11.46 million and handled 5,515 cases last year, double the savings and more than twice the caseload of the previous year.
The office helps consumers address managed care insurance issues. The savings figure represents the costs of health care services, procedures and claims that consumers would have had to pay if the agency had not intervened.
State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri attributed the increased caseload to multiple factors, including outreach efforts, a television commercial promoting its services, community promotions, English and Spanish brochures that explain consumer rights under federal health care reforms, transit ads throughout the state, media appearances, and a mass mailing to all licensed providers to let them know about the office and encourage them to direct patients there when necessary.
In addition, Veltri said the office was able to hire three staffers – two case managers and an outreach coordinator/data analyst – with funds from a federal grant. The grant expires in March, but Veltri said she is looking for a way to keep the three employees beyond March. Otherwise, she said, the office would have to “significantly reduce” its capacity while demand for assistance grows.
“[T]he demand for our services keeps increasing,” Veltri said in a statement. “Even with the doubling of the caseload, we know we are only seeing a fraction of the true demand out there. With health reform evolving and the exchange coming into play, the demand for the kind of services we provide, which range from consumer education and assistance in selecting a plan, all the way through direct advocacy in the appeal process, will skyrocket.”
The office is funded by an assessment paid by the insurance industry.