CMS on Friday gave $10 million to 30 organizations that will help people enroll in 2021 Affordable Care Act coverage during the upcoming open enrollment period that kicks off Nov. 1.
The amount is the same it has been for the last two years. CMS slashed funding for ACA navigators to $10 million in 2018 from $36 million the year before. In 2016, the Obama administration awarded $62.5 million in navigator grants.
Consumer advocacy groups have long criticized the Trump administration for cutting the budget for navigators, which they say are critical to the success of open enrollment. CMS has argued that navigators enroll too few people to justify the funds they receive, but navigators insist they offer more services than simply enrolling people.
Navigators help people shop for and enroll in ACA exchange coverage in states that use HealthCare.gov. They answer questions about health insurance, help people understand their coverage, and often assist in Medicaid enrollment or refer people to other services. They also raise awareness about the availability of exchange coverage through outreach and education programs.
CMS said the 2019 navigator awards were for a 24-month performance period, funded in two 12-month budget periods. The $10 million in grants announced Friday are for the second budget period.