Trump Administration Slashes ACA Navigator Outreach Program -- And For Good Reasons

Credit Kaiser Family Foundation

This image shows the main page of the healthcare.gov website in Washington, May 21, 2018.

Even though at least one of the companies providing Affordable Care Act insurance in IN temporarily saves money from a recent Trump administration move, company officials say the decision create more questions about the future of health coverage for Hoosiers.

During 2016-17 enrollment period, navigators received $63 million in federal grants but enrolled a measly less than 1 percent of the entire exchange population.

Navigators applying for the federal money will now be asked how they educate customers on new alternatives to the ACA that were put in place by the Trump administration.

The excuse Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is giving is that they believe the navigators don't sign up as many people as private entities like insurance brokers.

Trump spent his first year in office trying to repeal the health law and came within one vote in the U.S. Senate of achieving that goal.

Since Congress was unable to pass such a law, Trump and his aides have been taking a series of steps to weaken the law through administration 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. The vast majority of those customers receives taxpayer subsidies under the Obama-era health law and would be shielded from premium increases next year. The Department of Health and Human Services is finishing another rule that will broaden the use of short-term insurance plans, originally intended as a brief bridge for people between jobs. The funding will be delivered to eligible organizations that can help individuals enroll in ACA health plans.

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The ACA navigator program will also use performance-based system when CMS allocates funds.

Insurers decried the move, and have been pressing the administration to resolve the issue and resume the payments, arguing that premiums will rise for ObamaCare enrollees if funding is cut off.

For the past five years, when insurance has been available through ACA marketplaces for people who do not have access to affordable health benefits through a job, federal health officials have started every spring working with navigator groups on plans for the coming enrollment season. States also have to prove to CMS that navigators met enrollment goals and provided information to consumers about all possible health plan options. "It's just choosing not to exercise them", he said.

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

Don't count on it, said Steve Israel, a Boynton Beach, Fla., insurance agent and past president of the Florida Association of Health Underwriters.

The cut will impact navigators, the nonprofit organizations which the federal government pays to assist with registration in the countries which use HealthCare.gov due to their online market for individuals attempting to have protection through the Affordable Care Act.

The payments were created to stop insurers from losing money on very sick patients, who cost the most to treat. 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.

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