The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be awarding $30 million to states and territories to help them start or expand health insurance consumer assistance programs.

HHS has approved grant applications from 35 states, 4 territories and the District of Columbia, officials say.

HHS is distributing the grants to implement provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The grants are supposed to go to state projects that will help consumers enroll in health coverage; help consumers file complaints and appeals against health plans; educate consumers about their rights; and track consumer complaints.

“These grants will help ensure consumers’ rights are protected, and they are another way the new law is putting patients, not insurance companies, in charge of their health care,” HHS Secretary Kathleen SebeliusSebelius says in a statement.

Health insurance producers have been telling state and federal officials that producers have played a vital role in standing up for consumers in the current system and ought to have a chance to participate in whatever consumer assistance programs are set up.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), has argued that any individuals helping consumers with health coverage decisions ought to be trained and licensed as health agents or brokers.