Washington, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Expand Navigators’ Resources for Outreach, Learning, and Longevity (ENROLL) Act–a bill that was passed in the House under the leadership of Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), would obligate CMS to annually fund the navigator program, and help Americans make qualified and informed decisions on finding the coverage that works for them. Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement in response:

“Senator Baldwin and Senator Casey’s introduction of the ENROLL Act is another step forward in combating the Trump administration’s reckless health care sabotage. Navigators are crucial to providing health care outreach and information to communities across the country, yet Trump’s cuts to funding and enrollment advertising are making it harder for American families to enter the marketplace. While Trump and his GOP allies in Congress work to strangle the navigator program, Senator Badlwin, Senator Casey, and their Democratic colleagues are making sure that navigators have the resources they need to point American patients in the direction of the lower costs and better care they deserve.”  

BACKGROUND

The Trump Administration Has Slashed Navigator Funding By 84 Percent Since 2016, Leaving Some Areas Without Navigators’ Enrollment Assistance. In 2016, navigators received nearly $63 million worth of federal funding. By 2018, the Trump administration had slashed their funding to $10 million, representing an 84 percent decrease. These cuts have had a serious impact: less funding for navigators means less assistance for people to sign up for health care. Due to Trump’s cuts, navigators for three states (Iowa, Montana, and New Hampshire) receive no federal funding and other states now have areas in which there are no navigators to provide service, for instance Cleveland, Akron, Toledo and Youngstown in Ohio, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin in Texas, all of Michigan outside of the Detroit metro area. [Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/24/18]

In Nearly One-Third Of 2,400 Counties Served By HealthCare.gov, There Is No Federally Funded Navigator. But the budget for the insurance counselors known as navigators has been cut more than 80 percent, and in nearly one-third of the 2,400 counties served by HealthCare.gov, no navigators have been funded by the federal government.” [New York Times, 10/27/18]

Gallup Cited Huge Cuts To Navigator Funding As Playing A Role In The U.S. Uninsured Rate Reaching Its Four-Year High. “A number of factors have likely played a role in the steady increase in the uninsured rate over the past two years…Other factors could be a result of policy decisions. The open enrollment periods since 2018 have been characterized by a significant reduction in public marketing and shortened enrollment periods of under seven weeks, about half of previous periods. Funding for ACA “navigators” who assist consumers in ACA enrollment has also been reduced in 2018 to $10 million, compared with $63 million in 2016.” [Gallup, 1/23/19]

During The First Open Enrollment Period In 2013, 10.6 Million Americans Were Assisted By Navigators. “More than 4,400 Assister Programs, employing more than 28,000 full-time-equivalent staff and volunteers, helped an estimated 10.6 million people during the first Open Enrollment period.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 7/15/14]

In Addition To Slashing Funding, The Trump Administration Has Tried To Remove Resources For Navigators, Such As A Training Guide For Latino Outreach, From Its ACA Website.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services removed a presentation called “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” from one of its Web pages sometime in late September, according to a report released last week from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan government watchdog group. The presentation, an 18-slide PDF file, was intended to provide training for groups like navigators — a group formed under the Obama administration to promote health-plan selection — on better engaging with Latino communities and on challenges the community faces in enrollment. Critics are pointing to this latest move as another in the list of actions the Trump administration has taken to undermine the Affordable Care Act and to weaken the Latino and immigrant communities’ access to public programs like health care.” [Washington Post, 12/10/18]

Navigators Have Been Forced To Cut Back On Services Because Of Trump’s Funding Cuts:

  • Jodi Ray, Director Of Florida Covering Kids & Families Navigator Program: “We Are Only In Half The Counties We Were In Last Year.” “Florida Covering Kids & Families, a navigator program based at the University of South Florida, received $4.9 million in federal funds last year for open enrollment marketing and consumer assistance. It was one of several in the state to receive funding. This year, it was the only group in Florida to get any funding, and received just $1.2 million, said Jodi Ray, the group’s director. She said the number of calls for help is more than last year, when the group was receiving a thousand calls a day during peak times. ‘But we are certainly reaching less people,’ Ray said. ‘We are only in half the counties we were in last year, and we have few assisters.’” [Tampa Bay Times, 12/13/18]
  • Allen Gjersvig, Director Of Navigator And Enrollment Services At Arizona Alliance For Community Health Centers: “We can only surmise that with the big decrease in marketing over the past two years, a significant portion of people don’t know about open enrollment.” [Arizona Republic, 12/11/18]
  • Dan Derksen, Doctor Who Oversees Navigator Program At University Of Arizona: “At a time when people have more questions, it’s very likely there will be fewer people to help them in person.” [USA Today, 6/21/18]
  • Shelli Quenga, Director Of Programs For South Carolina-Based Palmetto Project: Restricting Support Is Bad For Consumers. “It’s very unfortunate for the consumer…We know that consumers still need in-person assistance — and especially consumers who are not native English speakers, consumers who are living just above the poverty line who don’t have a lot of experience with making big financial decisions like this that also have long-term implications to their financial future for themselves and their family members.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]
  • Cutting Funds To Navigator Groups Means They Must Significantly Cut Back On Outreach. “‘We have no expectation of any federal money being available to us,’ said Donna Friedsam, the director of Covering Wisconsin, a navigator program. Her organization received a 42 percent reduction last year because of the funding changes. It previously offered enrollment services in 23 counties, but had to scale down to 12.” [The Hill, 6/20/18]