Sebelius: 105 Groups Will Receive $67M for ACA’s Navigator Program
On Thursday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that 105 groups nationwide will receive federal grants totaling $67 million under the Affordable Care Act to serve as "navigators" for the insurance exchanges, the New York Times reports (Goodnough, New York Times, 8/15).
Background of the Navigator Program
Under the ACA, the 37 exchanges that will be operated solely by or in partnership with the federal government are required to have at least two certified navigator entities, one of which must be a not-for-profit. Navigator workers must provide "fair, impartial and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application, clarifying distinctions among [qualified health plans] and helping qualified individuals make informed decisions during the health plan selection process." They also must provide additional assistance to consumers with disabilities, limited proficiency in English or who are unfamiliar with health insurance.
Navigator Program Gets Funding Boost From Public Health Fund
The Obama administration initially planned to distribute $54 million in grants to the nearly three dozen states with exchanges that will be operated solely by or in partnership with the federal government.
However, an additional $13 million was redirected from the ACA's Prevention and Public Health Fund to boost the navigator program, according to Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the HHS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight's deputy center and policy director.
According to the Times, Sebelius previously noted that the administration would be forced to tap the fund -- which was established to support wellness and disease-prevention programs -- after Congress refused to allocate funding for ACA outreach and education initiatives (New York Times, 8/15).
Details of Navigator Grant Awards
On Thursday, federal officials said the navigator grants were awarded to groups based on the number of uninsured residents in their states. For example, groups in Florida and Texas -- which have two of the largest uninsured populations in the country -- received grants totaling $7.8 million and $11 million, respectively (Sun, Washington Post, 8/15).
In her announcement during a visit to Florida to promote the ACA, Sebelius said HHS selected groups that already have networks and connections in place (Kennedy, USA Today, 8/15).
Sebelius said, "Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the marketplace." She added, "A network of volunteers on the ground in every state -- health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates and local elected officials -- can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled" (New York Times, 8/15).
The 105 recipients of the grants include hospitals, Indian tribes, local food banks, patient advocacy groups and universities. Among the largest grants were:
- $5.9 million, to United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County in Texas;
- $4.2 million, to the University of South Florida in Tampa;
- $2.2 million, to the Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation in Atlanta;
- $2 million, to the North Carolina Community Care Networks;
- $2 million, to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks; and
- $1.3 million, to Michigan Consumers for Healthcare (Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, 8/15).