Federal funding cuts could lead to fewer health care navigators in Arizona
PHOENIX — The Trump administration announced it would cut funds for navigators who help people sign up for health insurance, and that could impact people trying to get coverage in Arizona.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Tuesday announced it will provide $10 million to the health navigators program this year, down from $36 million the previous year. The program was also slashed last year.
Marcus Johnson, director of state health policy and advocacy for Vitalyst Health Foundation, said this could lead to fewer navigators in Arizona.
“The bottom line is that this is definitely going to impact Arizonans who are looking to figure out what their coverage options are,” he said. “Less funding coming into the state of Arizona means fewer resources that are available for individuals to look through their different options.”
He said there could be more health care options available to people during this enrollment period, which begins in November, “so we might actually need more assistance to help people look at the different plans that are available to them.”
In a statement released Tuesday, CMS said enrollment data from last year showed navigators failed to enroll a meaningful amount of people for the exchange.
“It’s time for the navigator program to evolve, which is why we are announcing a new direction for the program today,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement.
Verma said navigators will be encouraged to leverage volunteers as well as strategic partnerships with public and private organizations to target consumers.
Their funding will also be based on performance from previous years “to ensure accountability within the program.”
Plus, they’ll be encouraged to show how they provide information to people who may be unaware of their coverage options.
Meanwhile, Johnson said navigators are already helping people enroll for different kinds of programs, including the state’s Medicaid program, also known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.
“It’s shortsighted to think that the navigators are only looking at marketplace enrollment when they’re already doing far more for the community,” he said.