The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that it will cut funding for “navigator” organizations that help Americans shop for and buy health insurance. The budget cut will reduce the amount of funds available to these grassroots groups from $36.8 million in the previous enrollment period to $10 million in the next enrollment period.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health-care navigators receive CMS funding to assist customers in deciding what coverage is best for them and their families, including both marketplace plans and government programs such as Medicaid. CMS justifies the reduced budget by arguing that the groups are less important now than they once were, having enrolled fewer than 1 percent of the 12 million Americans who signed up for ACA coverage in 2018.
The cuts follow similar changes announced in 2017, including unrenewed contracts, a 41-percent reduction in aid to navigators, and a 90-percent reduction in a related ACA advertising and outreach budget. The latest reduction in funding will be accompanied by instructions that navigators should recommend association health plans over Medicaid and ACA plans, bypassing many of the consumer protection provisions contained within the ACA.
Navigator groups have expressed dismay at the funding cuts and rules changes. “It’s inappropriate,” said Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging director Catherine Edwards. “This gets into the business of insurance products, and that is the bailiwick of agents and brokers. They’re just strangling the program. … They couldn’t kill the program in Congress, so they are cutting the money.”.
Source: The Washington Post, July 10, 2018.