Healthcare Resources for Consumers

The Consumer Assistance Program Resource Center is a compilation of materials and information about these programs, which have helped thousands of consumers. It includes information on best practices, profiles of selected state programs, and a discussion of why these programs continue to need federal funding. (Added January 2012)

The Consumer Assistance Program Locator has been updated. Click on your state  and get a list of consumer assistance programs. (Updated July 2011)

Healthcare 411 is a new online resource for health care consumers and providers. The site, available in English and Spanish, offers videos, podcasts, and articles offering a wide range of health tips from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Questions Are the Answer encourages patients to talk to their doctors and suggests questions to ask before, during, and after your appointments. This new web resource is aimed at helping consumers communicate better with their health care providers. It was launched by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Understanding Evidence-Based Healthcare. This web course has been created by the United States Cochrane Center as part of a project undertaken by Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare (CUE), and is designed to help consumer advocates understand the fundamentals of evidence-based healthcare concepts and skills. Registration is open and free of charge.

Most Families USA materials are intended for policy specialists and advocates. However, we do have some materials, listed below, that are written specifically for consumers.

For Consumers

YourHealthNet Consumer Health Research Website People want to be engaged in decision making about health care for themselves and their families. But to make informed decisions, consumers need to have access to high-quality research from independent sources. The Centre for Health Communication and Participation’s website explains evidence-based health research and systematic reviews in a visually appealing and user-friendly way, and it explains how patients can use this information to help make health care decisions. The site also provides recordings of real consumer stories where people describe how they used the reviews to inform their health decision making. Useful links to other consumer-oriented health research websites are included on the Resources page.

Health Law Guide allows you to enter your information and get a customized fact sheet with details about consumer protections and about new coverage options you may be eligible for under the Affordable Care Act. The guide will be updated as implementation of the law continues. (March 2012)

FAIR Health uses its database of billions of billed medical and dental charges to power a free website that enables consumers to estimate and plan their medical and dental expenditures. The website also offers unbiased educational articles and videos about the health insurance reimbursement system.

  • FH Reimbursement 101 is a series of guides that use plain language to help consumers better understand their health care costs and insurance reimbursement. Each guide offers comprehensive answers to common questions and directs consumers to resources where they can find additional information.
  • FAIR Health’s Consumer Cost Lookup tools help consumers estimate and plan their medical and dental expenses.
  • FH Medicare Compare helps consumers estimate their potential out-of-pocket expenses if their plan has converted to Medicare-based reimbursement. The migration of some health plans to a formula using a percentage of Medicare for out-of-network claims has created confusion among consumers and employers. This tool is designed to address this confusion.

Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question was created by nine physician specialty societies, which identified a total of 45 tests or procedures that are common but not always necessary. The societies partnered with Consumer Reports Health to present the information in a user-friendly way. This information will help you and your doctor make informed decisions. (April 2012)

Getting Covered: Finding Health Insurance When You Lose Your Job is designed to help consumers who’ve lost their health coverage sort through possible options for new coverage, including COBRA, Medicaid, CHIP, other federal and state programs, and the individual market. (Updated February 2012)

Consumer Involvement in Guideline Development: Why and How to Participate is a video that explains the process of developing clinical practice guidelines and the need for educated consumers to serve on clinical practice guideline panels. In March 2011, the Institute of Medicine released its report, “Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust.” Standard 3 of this report outlines the expectations for consumer involvement. (March 2011)

Why We Need a Health Insurance Exchange is a one-page handout that cites several reasons why consumers will benefit from the new exchanges, including competition, affordability, and quality. (June 2011)

The Affordable Care Act: Patients’ Bill of Rights and Other Protections is a compilation of all of our fact sheets to date on consumer rights and protections. (April 2011)

Medicare’s New Preventive Care Benefit: What It Means for You A consumer fact sheet on Medicare’s new preventive care benefit under the Affordable Care Act (March 2011)

Medicare’s New Wellness Visit: What It Means for You A consumer fact sheet on Medicare’s new wellnss visit benefit under the Affordable Care Act (March 2011)

The Health Care Law: Good News for Caregivers discusses how the health care law will help build the long-term care workforce, encourage states to expand home- and community-based services in Medicaid, improve resources for caregivers, and expand protections for people in long-term care facilities. | The Affordable Care Act: Provisions that Will Help Caregivers (March 2011)

Exposing Scam Insurance Plans Scam insurance plans often take advantage of consumers during economic downturns. Lately, so-called “associations” have been marketing phony health insurance plans. Before you buy insurance, make sure it is licensed in your state. To check on a policy, contact your state insurance department—you can find their information on the website of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Also, check out our report, Buyer Beware: Unlicensed Insurance Plans Prey on Health Care Consumers. (October 2010)

Families USA had prepared a series of fact sheets on the Patients’ Bill of Rights and other consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act that took effect on September 23. (September 2010)

Health Coverage for Young Adults: Health Reform Will Soon Allow You to Stay on Your Parent’s Health Plan is a fact sheet aimed at young adults (and their parents) that is designed to answer important questions about this new opportunity to keep or obtain health coverage for young adults up to age 26. (May 2010)

State Guides to Finding Health Coverage Whether you have recently lost your job, are an early retiree, or have a serious medical condition, these guides include numerous resources that may help you find the coverage you need. (Updated 2009)

Your Medical Bills: A Consumer’s Guide to Coping with Medical Debt covers steps for paying your medical bills, understanding your rights, and other information you need to know if you are struggling with medical debt. The guide also includes links to many useful online resources. | Fact Sheet | State Protections (November 2009)

What Is a “Special Enrollment Opportunity” and Why Should I Care about It? discusses who may have the option of signing up for job-based health coverage when it isn’t open season. (June 2009)

Your Guide to HIPAA Protections The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that helps protect your rights to health coverage when you move from one health plan to another health plan. This guide describes those protections and under what circumstances they may or may not apply. (June 2007)

Consumer Info Need help finding health insurance or learning about your rights to health care? See our list of resources.

For Consumer Advocates

The following materials are resources for advocates and professionals who assist consumers:

FAIR Health uses its database of billions of billed medical and dental charges to power a free website that enables consumers to estimate and plan their medical and dental expenditures. The group’s cost lookup tools can help you assist consumers in your state by helping them estimate out-of-pocket medical costs, negotiate lower out-of-pocket costs, manage high-deductible health plans, or helping uninsured consumers estimate costs before they seek care. You can also help consumers learn about their insurance benefits and the health care reimbursement system by sharing the Reimbursement 101 series with them. The group also has an “Employer Toolkit” that includes an overview of the types of free resources it offers to employers to share with their employees.

Medicare’s New Preventive Care Benefit: What It Means for You A consumer fact sheet on Medicare’s new preventive care benefit under the Affordable Care Act (March 2011)

Medicare’s New Wellness Visit: What It Means for You A consumer fact sheet on Medicare’s new wellnss visit benefit under the Affordable Care Act (March 2011)

Designing a Consumer Health Assistance Program discusses these programs and how health reform will dramatically expand the assistance they provide. It reviews key considerations to keep in mind when designing such programs, including grants and other funding, function, scope, location, staffing, training, and outreach. (August 2010)

Medicaid: Making It Work for Consumers provides resources to help explain how consumer assistance programs, states, and advocates can help with some common Medicaid problems

Private Insurance Legal Rights lists resources on laws and regulations in the private health insurance market.