Budgets for Michigan ACA Navigators Slashed

Sep 15, 2017 Issues: Health Care

ROSEVILLE, MI – The two largest Michigan organizations which help individuals enroll in health insurance today received notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that their budgets would be slashed. Enroll Michigan, which provides funding to 28 subgrantees received a 90 percent cut, from roughly $1.2 million in 2016-17 to $129,899 for 2017-18. ACCESS received 36 percent cut, from $555,000 to about $352,000.

Funding cuts of this size will dramatically reduce the in-person assistance that tens of thousands of people in Michigan have been able to rely on since the first open enrollment period in 2013. In 2016, nearly 1 million Michiganders had health insurance either through Michigan’s Medicaid expansion, Healthy Michigan, or the individual marketplace.

Navigator organizations, which were established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), help individuals understand their full ranges of health insurance options, including whether they qualify for cost-saving subsidies or are eligible for Healthy Michigan. Additionally, such organizations help enrollees access and best utilize their health insurance – which is key for the overall health of individuals.

CMS announced on August 31, 2017 that there would be significant changes to the formula for awards. Last week, Rep. Levin sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking for a justification for the new methodology, as well as the projections for the impact of the cuts in navigator funding.  CMS has not yet responded to Rep. Levin’s letter.

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration also shortened the open enrollment period, when individuals can choose a different health insurance provider. Open enrollment for 2018 will run from November 1 – December 15, which is the shortest period since the individual marketplace first launched in 2013.

Rep. Levin said: “These cuts will be absolutely devastating for Michiganders who are looking for assistance in enrolling in health insurance. This is just the latest example of the Trump Administration attempting to sabotage the ACA – this time at the particular expense of the health of Michiganders.”

Dizzy Warren from Enroll Michigan said: “Since the implementation of the Navigator program, CMS has made it clear that Navigator organizations could not concentrate on just enrollment. The purpose of the Navigator program was to provide millions of consumers with outreach and education, in addition to enrollment services – which is what our network has been engaged in for the last four years. Towards that end, members of the Enroll Michigan network have conducted over 10,000 outreach events throughout the State of Michigan that reached over 3 million consumers. Additionally, we have provided one-on-one enrollment assistance to more than 150,000 Michigan consumers.

“The cut in funding for the 2017-18 will absolutely have a detrimental effect on our ability to continue to provide the full range of navigator services that our consumers need. In many instances it will increase the inevitable churning that takes place due to consumers’ confusion, and mistakes in selecting the best healthcare coverage options available to them.”

Farah Erzouki from ACCESS said: “Navigators have played a crucial role in helping our community, vulnerable communities and Americans across the country gain access to health care, and ultimately maintain healthier lives. Without this essential service, a large number of this underserved population would be left on their own to navigate the complexities of our health care system and would have no support to advocate for their health. ACCESS knows firsthand the value that this service has brought to our community, and will continue to serve those in need of assistance regardless of what the future brings.”

The full text of Rep. Levin’s September 8 letter to CMS is available here. A full list of Enroll Michigan’s grantees can be found here.