The Trump administration announced a drastic $26 million funding cut on Tuesday for programs that provide in-person assistance to help people enroll in health insurance coverage. This announcement represents a cut of over 80% of funds in previous years along with other actions taken by the Administration to undermine the program, including removing navigator duties from trusted community and state-based organizations that know the populations they serve best, and placing them in the hands of entities that are not physically located where people who need coverage live and work. Navigators are intended to provide a vital service, offering clear, unbiased information for people to understand their insurance options, to receive financial assistance, and ultimately to enroll in and use their plans through health insurance marketplaces.
The Trump Administration cited last year’s open enrollment as the “most cost effective and successful open enrollment to date,” stating the visibility and familiarity of the Exchange diminishes the needed for federally funded Navigators. We believe credit should be given where credit is due: the success of last year’s open enrollment was due to Navigators, certified application counselors, volunteers, and healthcare advocates across the country that employed Herculean tactics to stave off the Trump Administration’s persistent sabotage. Navigators, in particular, assist the most difficult-to-enroll populations across our state and have made the ACA a reality in every corner of our state, from the multicultural communities of Chicago to the most rural and isolated communities across Illinois.
Consumers need trusted and unbiased assistance that will not steer them into non-compliant plans that may hurt them by not covering pre-existing conditions or failing to include the ACA’s essential health benefits. Given the continued attacks on health care, including federal rules allowing the resurgence of low-cost, junk health insurance plans, such as association health plans and short-term plans, consumers looking for good, comprehensive coverage could be easily confused. This is a time when consumers need more help to understand the insurance options that are available to them—not less.
We call on Illinois’ Members of Congress to denounce the Trump Administration’s latest moves to undermine affordable, quality coverage for millions of Americans and provide a fast remedy to this situation and require funding for a robust, community-based enrollment assistance effort.