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This week, CMS announced it was awarding significantly less funding for navigator organizations than in the past for the upcoming Affordable Care Act open enrollment season. Overall, the program’s funding has been reduced from 2016’s $100 million budget to $10 million for 2018. Navigator organizations are non-profits that provide critical assistance to consumers who need help enrolling in health insurance plans. In addition to the funding cuts, the number of navigators actually receiving funding dropped from 90 to 39. These cuts are crippling, especially in light of other actions taken to undermine the health care law.

Not only has funding been slashed, navigators are also being actively encouraged to promote junk plans such as short-term limited-duration insurance and association health plans. As we have previously highlighted, these junk plans will leave consumers without coverage when they need care the most. Further, these plans do not have to abide by ACA coverage and consumer protections. Such plans should certainly not be promoted to vulnerable, “left behind” populations as CMS describes in the press release announcing the awards.

Last year, we saw the Administration cut the ACA enrollment period in half; slash funding for enrollment assistance; refuse to participate in enrollment events; shut down healthcare.gov during critical times; and refuse to pay cost-sharing reductions. If that is any indicator of what’s to come this year, a strong and fully funded Navigator program will be needed more than ever.  

September 13, 2018 – B. Belton

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