House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups

House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups
© Greg Nash

A pair of House Democrats want answers from the Trump administration about the decision to significantly slash funding for outreach groups that help people enroll in ObamaCare coverage.

The funding will be cut from $36 million this year to $10 million in 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said last week.  

The administration's funding for such outreach had already been slashed last year to well below the $63 million budgeted annually under former President Obama.

In a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue | Court orders key documents from OxyContin maker unsealed | Pfizer announces stock buybacks Dems to reframe gun violence as public health issue Term limit fight highlights growing pains for Pelosi’s majority MORE (N.J.) and Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorBipartisan leaders of House panel press drug companies on opioid crisis Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices House Dems want answers on cuts to ObamaCare outreach groups MORE (Fla.) asked the agencies to explain how they arrived at the $10 million funding level.

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Pallone and Castor are the ranking Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

They also asked Verma and Azar how the agencies expect the groups, knows as navigators, to fulfill all the responsibilities legally required of them with only $10 million in funding.

“Given the Administration’s repeated attempts to sabotage the [Affordable Care Act] at the expense of consumers across the nation, the practical elimination of Navigators constitutes another costly blow to consumers simply for partisan gain,” Pallone and Castor wrote.  

They also asked how HHS plans to use the money that was saved from reducing Navigator funding.

The administration, meanwhile, argues that because the law has been around longer, the need for outside groups to help people enroll has diminished.  

“As the Exchange has grown in visibility and become more familiar to Americans seeking health insurance, the need for federally funded Navigators has diminished,” CMS said in its funding announcement.

The administration also maintains that navigators have proven to be ineffective.

“Enrollment data from previous years show that Navigators failed to enroll a meaningful amount of people,” CMS said.