Trump Administration Slashes Funds for Health Insurance Outreach Program

For the second year in a row, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid cut grants to groups that help consumers find insurance through the federal marketplace.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid has taken another swipe at the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health care coverage in the U.S.

In an announcement this week, the federal agency announced it will slash funding for groups that help individuals find insurance plans through the federal marketplace by more than 30 percent to $10 million in the next cycle, starting in September.

The agency said in a release that those groups, called navigators, had not enrolled a “meaningful amount of people” to justify their cost.

As part of its cut, navigators will have to propose all possible insurance plans to consumers, including those which have more restrictions, and they will have to meet enrollment targets.

Democratic lawmakers said the decision marked yet another attempt to weaken the Affordable Care Act of former President Barack Obama.

“This move amounts to federally-funded fraud: paying groups to sell unsuspecting Americans on junk plans that allow insurance companies to deny care on a whim and charge whatever they want is nothing but a scam,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who is on the Senate Finance Committee. “Trump’s sabotage crusade is making it harder and harder for families to afford quality insurance that isn’t filled with loopholes and exceptions that benefit insurance companies.”

This is the second year of cuts in the program. Last year it was slashed from $63 billion to $36 billion.

The navigators help consumers prepare electronic and paper applications through the federal marketplace and potentially qualify for subsidies.

Oregon has its own system and will not be affected by the cut. Consumers in the state can get assistance that’s locally funded through competitive grants to community groups and local insurance agents.

“These state programs remain strong, as the federal government slashes support for a similar ‘navigator’ programs in other states,” Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services said in a statement. The agency runs the marketplace in Oregon through dcbs.oregon.gov.

The program awarded about $370,000 in grants to six community organizations in Oregon and another $290,000 to 32 insurance agents for the 2018 year. The state does not plan to make any cuts for the next round.

Reach Lynne Terry at [email protected].