Biden administration allocates nearly $100 million to navigators for 2023 open enrollment period - MedCity News

The Biden-Harris administration is investing a historic $98.9 million in 59 navigation organizations to help consumers during the 2023 open enrollment period. The money will have a major impact on enrollment in the Marketplace, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), said one recipient.

Navigators educate consumers about health insurance, help them find the right plan for their needs, and assist them even after the enrollment process. Funding for 59 returning navigation organizations will help retain staff and add to the 1,500 employees who worked through the 2022 open enrollment period, according to a news release last week from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Biden’s investment is the largest to date for navigation organizations, according to CMS, and is in stark contrast to the Trump years, where the goal was to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. In 2018, the Trump administration announced only $10 million in grants to 39 navigation organizations for 2019

The $99 million investment is actually the second installment over a three-year period. For the 2022 open enrollment period, the administration allocated $80 million, quadrupling the number of navigators for that year. These 1,500 staff held more than 1,800 information and education events in places like libraries, vaccination clinics and food drives.

The Biden administration pointed out that the navigational scope resulted in 14.5 million people signing up for health coverage through the Marketplaces in 2022, including about 6 million who recently gained coverage last year, CMS said. HHS recently announced that the national uninsured rate hit a record low of 8% in early 2022.

“This is a historic investment to connect people to high-quality, affordable health care,” Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “Last year, our investments contributed to the lowest uninsured rate in our nation’s history. This year, we’re doubling down on making sure people get the insurance they need. Navigators critically help us reach people where they are, educating them about their health insurance options, which can be lifesaving.”

The money this year goes to navigation organizations in 30 states. The largest recipient was the University of South Florida/Florida Reaching Children and Families (FL-CKF), which received more than $12.9 million. The organization works statewide and targets those who are vulnerable and disproportionately uninsured, including people who are LBGTQ+, pregnant women, and Hispanic/Latino communities. Florida, which did not expand Medicaid, had the fifth-highest uninsured rate (12.3%) among all 50 states in 2020, according to the latest available data from Kaiser Family Foundation.

For the open enrollment period, FL-CKF is working with nine organizations that reflect every region of the state, said Jody Ray, program director. Each of the organizations has a project specific to the needs of its region. With the funding, FL-CKF is also focusing on recruiting and putting out public service announcements through local media.

“The support goes primarily to the human resources community … because that one-on-one help is everything,” Ray said. “Being able to ask a knowledgeable person questions and be able to get back to that same person who knows your circumstances is really impactful for consumers.”

Ray added that the money will go a long way in getting consumers involved, especially as the end of the public health emergency Covid-19 nears. 15 million people are expected lost health insurance coverage when that happens, because the continuous enrollment requirement that prohibits states from disenrolling Medicaid participants during the emergency period will also end, HHS said in a recent report.

“Unfortunately for a state like Florida, this is going to affect a lot of people who are currently enrolled in programs like Medicaid, who will probably no longer be eligible for Medicaid and really need help,” Ray said.

Those interested in speaking with a FL-CKF navigator can make an appointment through him website or call 877-813-9115.

Photo: Natalia Nesterenko, Getty Images

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