Key ObamaCare groups in limbo as they await funding
Local groups that help people sign up for ObamaCare and Medicaid have yet to hear from the Trump administration about their annual federal funding, leaving many in limbo and fearing the grants could be too small or might not come at all.
“We really haven’t gotten any update or any deadline to submit applications or any knowledge at all about what the future is going to bring,” said Karen Egozi, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, one of the state’s larger health-care navigator programs.
The organizations typically hear from the federal government in April or early May with information about how much money will be available for grants, when key deadlines are and the expected award date.
But several navigators contacted by The Hill said they have received no information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that manages the program, about the exact timing of and details on the grants, making it difficult to plan for the upcoming health insurance open enrollment period.
When asked about the navigator grants, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wrote in an email that HHS did not have any details to share at this time.
In the past, the department has referred to the sign-up program as “ineffective” and significantly cut its funding last year, basing the new lower funding levels on how well they met past enrollment goals.
By now, “we would have normally submitted our plan to HHS and would have been waiting to see if we got the [funding] award, so we’re way behind at this point,” said Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, which is affiliated with the University of South Florida.
The navigator program was created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide outreach, education and enrollment assistance, and the federal government provides funds to keep the program running in the 34 states that use the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov. The vast majority of navigators are state and local nonprofits, such as community health groups and hospitals.
In the past, navigators were given about 60 days to apply and HHS had 60 days to review applications.
But current grants, which began in 2015, expire Sept. 12. With the delays, it’s not clear if the grants will be awarded in time to prevent funding lapses. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1, but navigators say they need the funding before then so they can hire people, complete training and other requirements and conduct and plan outreach events in their communities.