39 navigators to receive grants to aid 2019 ACA enrollment
The CMS on Wednesday revealed the 39 navigators who will get a share of the $10 million in funding for the program — down from 90 organizations who were funded in 2017.
The grantees will be expected to target the remaining uninsured population and offer help to enroll in association health plans or limited duration plans. Open enrollment for the Obamacare exchanges starts in six weeks.
Earlier this summer, the CMS announced the agency had slashed the program funds from $36 million last year to $10 million for this year. This was a sharp drop from 2016, when the Obama administration disbursed $62.5 million in grants. Overall, the navigator funding has fallen 84% since 2016.
The grant funding cuts have angered Affordable Care Act supporters, but CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who called Wednesday's announcement the mark of a "new direction" for the program, has defended the Trump administration's approach as more cost-effective.
This year's funding announcement adopted new criteria that urge grantees to use more volunteers and partner with other organizations to run their outreach. The CMS also wants navigators to help with Medicaid and CHIP enrollment as well.
Specifically, navigators are expected to target people "disproportionately without access to health insurance coverage or care," and to tell them about options outside the ACA exchanges such as association health plans and limited duration plans.
The Trump administration is pushing its regulatory expansion of association health plans and limited duration health plans as an option for people who don't want to enroll in the exchanges, which critics say undermines the individual market risk pool.
"This new direction will increase accountability and ensure the grants are effective in helping consumers find health coverage that meets their needs," she said. "We will continue to monitor the impact of these changes with the primary goal of ensuring consumers have the resources to select a health plan that best fits their needs."
The administration has tried to encourage registered insurance brokers and agents to work on ACA exchange enrollment, yet agents and brokers keep dropping out.
In 2017, more than 65,000 agents and brokers helped with exchange enrollment, but in 2018 that number dropped nearly 25% to just over 49,000. Since 2016, the number has fallen more than 38%.
Still, 8.8 million people enrolled in the individual market through the federally run marketplace in 2018, just 400,000 shy of the previous year's numbers even though the open enrollment period was cut in half and navigator and marketing funding was drastically slashed.
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