ObamaCare enrollment groups learn extent of Trump cuts

ObamaCare enrollment groups learn extent of Trump cuts
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State and local groups now know how much funding they'll have to help enroll people in the ObamaCare exchanges after the Trump administration slashed the total grant money available, according to two sources.  

The groups, known as navigators, have been worried over their funding for ObamaCare enrollment, outreach and education. On Aug. 31, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the total funds available for these groups would decrease from $62.5 million to $36.8 million, a 41 percent cut.


Their grant funds ran out at the beginning of the month, and they will not be paid retroactively for the first two weeks of September, according to one source. In preparation, some groups had laid off staff and cut salaries.

Now, navigators will be analyzing their new budgets ahead of an ObamaCare enrollment season beginning Nov. 1.

The Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging received “a severe cut of 62 percent,” Catherine Edwards, the executive director, wrote in an email.

“We are now working through the budget to see if the program is sustainable,” she wrote.

HHS has defended the cuts, saying the navigator program was “ineffective.”

Navigator groups had been anticipating level funding and several said they were caught off guard by the late August announcement. HHS said the navigators would receive funds for this grant year based on how well they met their enrollment goals last year.  

“Judging effectiveness by the amount of money spent and not the results achieved is irresponsible and unhelpful to the American people,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement emailed to reporters after the announcement.

Another navigator group, the Palmetto Project, received a more than 50 percent decrease in funding.
"It is devastating internally and not a reflection of the quantity or quality of the work that we've provided to the residents of our state," Shelli Quenga, the South Carolina nonprofit's director of programs, wrote in an email. 
She wrote that last year, the group fielded over 80,000 questions from state residents on ObamaCare plans, and that "a smaller budget may affect the volume of work that we can do after Dec. 15," which is when ObamaCare open enrollment season closes. 
Peter Sullivan contributed reporting.