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



The Department of Insurance produces a wide range of consumer publications on health insurance. In addition to the New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers described in the previous section, other significant publications include:

  • Your Rights as a Health Insurance Consumer;
  • Consumers Guide for Standard Individual HMO and Point of Service Coverage, 1999;
  • Premium Rates for HMO Standard Individual Health Plans by County;
  • Health Insurance - A Small Business Guide;
  • Information for Medicare Beneficiaries;
  • External Review: Your Rights as a Health Care Consumer in New York State; and
  • Insurance Policies covering Long Term Care Services in New York State.


The Consumer Services Bureau runs about 100 outreach programs annually including visits to groups such as senior centers and high schools to talk about insurance. The Department of Insurance also works with the Department of Aging to provide advice about how to select different types of insurance policies.

The Department meets with HCFA(now known as CMS), the Office of Aging and the New York Health Department on the HIICAP program (Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program) which is funded by the federal SHIP program. Under the HIICAP program volunteers sit down on a one-to-one basis with seniors to explain health insurance options. There is a training manual on the HIICAP program which the New York State Insurance Department reviews and provides technical assistance. Assistance is also provided at the end of the year, for example, when HMOs withdraw from the market.


The Department of Insurance is extremely vigorous in using the media to publicize its efforts on behalf of consumers with weekly and sometimes, daily, press releases on issues including the release of the annual consumer guide to health insurance, promoting the availability of the external review hotline and penalties against non-compliant insurers. Attachments 4 & 5 provides examples of press releases promoting the consumer complaints guide.