Consumer Protection in Private Health Insurance: The Role of Consumer Complaints. D. Public Education Activities



The Department of Insurance produces a number of general brochures related to health insurance and long term care. Since 1995 the Department has strengthened its efforts to improve the consumer friendliness and comprehensibility of these publications.


Regulators at the Department of Insurance noted that there is an extremely active Speakers’ Bureau which commenced operation in the mid-1980s. The Speakers’ Bureau runs sessions with diverse audiences including: Chambers of Commerce, Seniors Centers, State Fairs, California Association for Home Health Care, LA City Sheriff Department, MS society, Rotary, junior high schools, mobile home parks, and small and large employer groups. Commissioner Quackenbush publicizes the complaints function with the annual release of the consumer complaints study (see Attachment 7 for an example of this press release).

The Department of Corporations has been criticized as an “invisible regulator” in the 1999 report by the Consumers Union and the Center for Health Care Rights. The report found the following problems associated with public education:

  • Inadequate listing of the Department of Corporations in telephone books and directory assistance, resulting in many consumers being unaware of the Department’s role in regulating managed care and handling consumer complaints about managed care; and
  • Insufficient use of the media, including news releases to promote the Department’s Hotline.

The Lewin evaluation examines the public education and outreach activities of the Health Rights Hotline. Activities undertaken by the Hotline include:

  • Publication of brochures;
  • Presentations and distribution of materials at community events;
  • Television advertising;
  • Mailing of postcards with a Hotline sticker to 250,000 households;
  • Distribution of a Hotline newsletter; and
  • Advertising in the Sacramento Yellow Pages.

The Lewin evaluation has examined, at some length, the cost effectiveness of various outreach activities (refer Attachment 3 for further details).