Targeting Health Care Navigators: A Terrible Idea that Threatens Texans

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This week the Trump Administration announced additional cuts to the federal Navigator program, a core support system that helps Texans make their way through applications for income-based discounts on health insurance, understand their options, and select a health care plan through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

The federal government announced a second round of dramatic cuts to U.S. Navigator grants, which they reduced from $62.5 million in 2016 to $36.8 million in 2017, and are now slashing to just $10 million.

Texas has the largest percentage and the highest number of uninsured residents of any state. The move to limit Navigator assistance makes it even more challenging for the over 4.5 million Texans lacking health insurance.

This latest move to target people whose jobs are to help Texans understand their options further underscores the Administration’s lack of concern about Americans’ access to affordable, comprehensive health care. It is a terrible idea for federal leaders to gut the systems that equip consumers with the information they need to make the best decisions for their families.

While not unexpected, these cuts to Navigators are deeply concerning. It is just the latest in a series of policies intended to weaken the individual health insurance market, make enrollment harder, and drive up premiums through administrative actions that don’t require Congressional approval.  The Center for Public Policy Priorities has been committed to supporting and strengthening the Navigator program since its inception. We will continue to work with outreach and enrollment assisters, Community Health Centers, local governments, health care providers, fellow advocates, and insurers to sustain Texas’ crucially important network of people who assist Texans with their applications. We invite other concerned organizations to join in this work to prevent further losses of health care coverage among Texans.

CPPP is a co-host of the State of Texas Enrollment Conference in San Antonio September 20-21. Registration is now open for the free conference designed for outreach and enrollment assisters, and we will continue to raise funds to be able to offer transportation cost stipends for those in need. Now more than ever, we need to strengthen the ties across our Texas outreach, eligibility and enrollment networks.

Anne Dunkelberg oversees health care policy for CPPP. She focuses on policy and budget issues related to health care access and immigrants’ access to public benefits. She joined the Center in 1994 from the State Medicaid Director’s Office at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Anne is a founding member of the statewide Children’s Health Coverage Coalition (formerly the Texas CHIP Coalition) and the Cover Texas Now Coalition. She has been recognized by Families USA as an outstanding Consumer Health Advocate and by the LBJ School of Public Affairs Alumni Association as a Distinguished Public Servant. She was the primary author of the first edition of Texas Medicaid in Perspective (“the Pink Book”) and serves on the Texas Medicaid Managed Care Statewide advisory committee and the Texas Healthcare Transformation Waiver Executive Waiver Committee. Anne is a native Texan, and received her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and her M.P.A. from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

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