Trump Administration Cuts Funding For Obamacare Navigator Program

Trump Administration Cuts Funding For Obamacare Navigator Program

Trump Administration Cuts Funding For Obamacare Navigator Program

On Tuesday, his administration announced it would cut funding for "navigators" who help people find and sign up for Obamacare plans to $10 million, from $36 million previous year.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be offering $10 million in funding this year to groups that will help navigate 2019 enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, CMS said to a statement Tuesday. "The Trump administration needs to stop playing Russian Roulette with our health care system".

Since Congress was unable to pass such legislation, Trump and his aides have been taking steps to weaken the law through administrative maneuvers. With suspension of the risk adjustment payments, insurers must now contend with another disruption to the market by the time they finalize rates early this fall.

"Given the continued attacks on health care, including federal rules allowing the resurgence of low-priced, junk health insurance plans, such as "association health plans" and "short-term plans", consumers looking for good, comprehensive coverage could be easily confused", said Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, a left-leaning advocacy organization.

Since then, the Department of Labor has issued a rule to broaden the use of one such kind of insurance, called "association health plans". Almost 9 in 10 people buying coverage on the ACA exchanges qualify for federal subsidies based on their incomes, and the amount those subsidies rose a year ago because of an increase in silver-plan premiums. Also, the $16 million payment (for the 2017 plan year) is temporarily on hold, per CMS's order.


"Given our large and unique distribution-channel strategy of utilizing our retail centers along with our telesales efforts, our dedicated field agents and our direct in-market enrollment efforts, we do not depend on navigators to enroll ACA members", said spokesman Paul Kluding. Taken together, these moves will have the effect of damaging the ACA's marketplaces by attracting younger, healthier people, while forcing older, sicker people to either pay more for insurance or purchase sub-par insurance that might not cover services they need. States also have to prove to CMS that navigators met enrollment goals and provided information to consumers about all possible health plan options. In 2016, funding for navigator groups was $63 million, so the most recent funding cut represents an 80% reduction from two years ago. The imposition of work requirements will not "dignify" program recipients and "lift them out of poverty", but will in many cases bump them off the benefit rolls through onerous requirements.

As for the priority given to applicants that help spread the word about non-ACA health plans, Edwards said: "It's inappropriate".

What is usually referred to as risk adjustment payments, aims to protect insurance companies from making hefty losses during their service delivery to the people.

Speaking for the navigators, Fred Ammons, who supervises the Insure Georgia organization, said: "This is a huge cut to navigator programs across the country". Eligible organizations include small businesses, local chambers of commerce, trade associations, and other community groups. "And the reason that the penetration of value-based programs-even those that have upside-only risk-[has lagged] is that reluctance and the sense that they don't have deep capital reserves, aren't prepared and equipped to handle a significant financial shock like some sort of clawback because they missed their targets", Abrams says.

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