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With Cuts to Navigator Program, the Trump Administration Continues Sabotage of the ACA

If it wasn’t evident by this point that the Trump administration really doesn’t want all Americans to have access to health care, their decision this week to once again slash funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Exchange Navigator Program should make it clear enough. On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they would be cutting the budget for Navigators who help consumers to find health coverage in the federal health care marketplaces by nearly 70%, dropping it from $36 million to $10 million to be split among 34 states. This $26 million loss in funding comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s cuts to the program last year, when it was reduced by $27 million along with a 90% cut in the ACA’s advertising budget.

In their statement announcing their decision cut Navigator funding, CMS claims that the “need for federally funded Navigators has diminished” going into this 6th ACA open enrollment period as the general public is now familiar enough with the ACA marketplaces to navigate them on their own. CMS also used the success of the ACA open enrollment period last year—and by extension the tireless work of health care advocates who stepped in for the federal government’s absence—as a justification for the further cuts, going so far as to say that their new funding opportunity announcement “encourages Navigator applicants to leverage volunteers” to help people get enrolled in coverage.

However, any attempts by the Trump administration to claim their cuts to the Navigator program are solely about cost-cutting fall apart when their other actions around the ACA are taken into account. As AIDS United has previously reported, the Trump administration announced last year that they would no longer be conducting any of their traditional ACA marketplace coordination events in the South, which costs them no money, and arbitrarily shortened the open enrollment period from its customary 90 days down to 45. More recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice made an unprecedented decision last month by refusing to defend the ACA in a lawsuit contesting its constitutionality, confirming the Trump administration’s commitment to undermining the ACA through the courts as well as via regulatory action.

In addition to the Navigator cuts, the Department of Health and Human Services announced over the weekend that they would be temporarily suspending the ACA’s “risk adjustment” payments. The move, which the Trump administration says is due to a recent court ruling but which many health care experts are viewing as just another avenue by which they hope to sabotage the ACA, freezes $10.4 billion in risk adjustment funding that is designed to help insurers provide coverage to their sickest and most costly enrollees. Andy Slavitt, who served as CMS Administrator under President Obama, called the Trump administration’s decision to suspend risk adjustment payments “aggressive and needless sabotage of the ACA.”

AIDS United will do our best to keep you up to date on all the latest developments regarding this year’s ACA open enrollment and the Trump administration’s continued efforts to sabotage our nation’s health care law. And, in the wake of these inexcusable cuts to the ACA navigator program, we will also be working hard to link as many people living with HIV to care as we possibly can through our own education, outreach, and technical assistance.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, July 13, 2018

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