CMS Navigator Program Funding Slashed 84% Since 2016

Taking its marching orders from the Trump White House, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Wednesday (Sept.12) awarded $10 million in Navigator grant awards to 39 organizations who will serve as Navigators in federally-facilitated Exchange states. But the awards, which are intended to support organizations that help consumers shop for and enroll in health insurance plans for 2019, did not spark widespread praise from an appreciative audience. Instead, advocacy groups complain the funding is far too inadequate to accomplish the stated goal and, in fact, is markedly less than last year’s funding. Indeed, compared to 2016, federal Navigator funding for the coming year marks an 84% reduction. This year’s funding level of $10 million represents “a significant reduction from previous years,” says Families USA, a leading national voice for health care consumers. In 2016, the Navigator program received $62.5 million; it received $36 million in 2017. Under federal law, Navigators provide in-person assistance to help people through the marketplace health plan eligibility and enrollment process. Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 of this year. The ever dwindling financial support for the Navigator program raises questions about whether CMS is indeed “committed to making sure that consumers have a positive experience,” as stated Wednesday by CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Today’s Navigator award announcement is another example of the Trump administration’s continuous efforts to decimate the programs that help families get the health coverage and care they need,” said Claire McAndrew, director of campaigns and partnerships for Families USA. “By slashing Navigator funding by 84%, the Trump administration is demonstrating that the health of families is not a priority.” McAndrew noted that in-person enrollment assistance has been shown to increase the likelihood that an individual will enroll in coverage. Despite the effectiveness of the Navigator program, however, the Trump administration has cut its budget by $52.5 million since 2016. “Given the continued attacks on health care, including federal rules allowing the resurgence of low-cost, junk insurance plans, such as ‘association health plans’ and ‘short-term plans’, consumers looking for good, c [...]

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9/14/18 5:30 PM

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