HHS To Award $60M in ACA Navigator Grants To Boost Enrollment
On Monday, HHS announced that 90 groups across 34 states will receive federal grants totaling $60 million under the Affordable Care Act to help consumers navigate coverage options during the upcoming open enrollment period, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports (Galewitz, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 9/8).
Last year, HHS awarded $67 million in navigator grants to 105 groups (California Healthline, 8/16/13). A recent survey found that consumer assistance programs created under the ACA helped about 10.6 million U.S. residents explore health coverage options and apply for insurance plans during the ACA's first open enrollment period (California Healthline, 7/15).
Details of Navigator Grant Awards
According to Modern Healthcare, only organizations operating in states that are using the federal exchange are eligible for the navigator grants. States operating their own exchanges are required to establish their own consumer assistance programs (Demko, Modern Heatlhcare, 9/8).
The grants were awarded to a variety of groups, including:
- Tribal groups; and
- Universities (Viebeck, The Hill, 9/8).
Many of the 90 organizations assisted consumers during the initial open enrollment period last year, although some are new grantee recipients, according to Modern Healthcare (Modern Healthcare, 9/8).
Among the largest grant recipients were:
- $5.4 million, to the University of South Florida;
- $4.6 million, to United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County in Texas; and
- $2.2 million, to Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation in Tennessee ("Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 9/8).
New Rules for Navigators
The Obama administration on Monday announced new rules for navigators groups, requiring them to have a physical presence in the area they serve and to submit progress reports weekly to HHS. Meanwhile, HHS said that grant recipients are required to receive training and follow privacy security standards, "as was the case last year."
HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell said, "In-person assisters have an impact on the lives of so many Americans, helping individuals and families across the country access quality, affordable health coverage."
However, some Republicans have expressed concern that the consumer assistance programs could potentially be subject to fraud and abuse, according to the Washington Times.
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said, "[T]hese Obamacare Navigators will have little training, but will be tasked with handling Americans' most sensitive personal information -- giving Americans even more reason to be concerned about risks from fraud and identity theft due to Obamacare." Black also expressed concern that navigator grants had been awarded to Planned Parenthood (Howell, Washington Times, 9/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.