Consumer Protection in Private Health Insurance: The Role of Consumer Complaints. D. Public education activities



TDI publishes a range of brochures relating to health insurance including:

  • Independent Review Organizations;
  • Patient Protection Rules - Fair Play under Managed Care;
  • Questions and Answers about your Health Care Coverage.

Demand for Publications

In 1999 TDI distributed 1.5 million copies of insurance related publications. This is an increase from 1996, when more than 884,000 consumers received TDI information.

From September 1999 to January 2000 OPIC has distributed 25,116 copies of the "Comparing Texas HMOs 1999" guide, with a further 7,286 copies downloaded directly from its web site. The web site accounted for 22% of the total 32,402 copies distributed. OPIC releases the annual HMO report in October each year. In the period September 1999 to January 2000 it recorded 57,595 hits on its web site, comprising 10,079 visitors.


In addition to complaints resolution, the Consumer Protection Program in TDI undertakes a range of public education and outreach activities through two separate units. The Information Assistance Unit is the first point of contact for consumers ringing the 1-800 Consumer Helpline. Staff in this unit answer general inquiries about insurance, provide advice about filing complaints and handle requests for complaint forms and consumer publications.

Supporting the Information Assistance Unit and the Complaints Resolution Unit is the Public Education Unit. This unit develops informational materials, coordinates a Speakers' Bureau and operates the federally funded Health Information, Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) which provides advice to seniors concerning insurance problems. The Speakers' Bureau conducted 475 presentations in 1999 on insurance issues, up from 290 in 1996.

Following the release of the first HMO report in October 1998, OPIC handled telephone inquiries from people wanting additional information, but this demand has subsided in 1999 as consumers become more familiar with the report. OPIC is considering undertaking focus group testing and telephone follow-ups to elicit consumer responses to the HMO report and how to improve it.