Blunt Rochester & Castor Introduce ENROLL Act to Restore Funding to the ACA’s Healthcare Navigator Program

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Washington, October 31, 2018 | Kyle Morse (202-695-0494) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) and Kathy Castor (FL-14) introduced H.R. 7102, the Expand Navigators’ Resources for Outreach, Learning and Longevity (ENROLL) Act. The ENROLL Act guarantees funding for navigator initiatives that provide critical assistance to help hardworking families pick the health plan that is right for them. The legislation would also boost outreach and educational activities to let people know about their coverage options and if financial support is available to help purchase coverage. The healthcare open enrollment period runs from November 1st through December 15th.

“Over the past two years, funding cuts and burdensome requirements have prevented marketplace navigators from providing counsel to consumers looking to enroll in health insurance plans that work best for them,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “Choosing an insurance plan is a deeply personal decision, and marketplace navigators help people select a plan that meets their individualized needs. This bill gives navigators the tools and resources they need to assist and empower folks to make that decision, while also playing a vital role in ensuring people are aware and understand the financial assistance and coverage options available to them. Healthcare is one of our most essential rights, and I believe this bill will help make meaningful progress in our efforts to increase access to quality coverage.”

“Since the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2013, Westside Family Healthcare has worked tirelessly to assist thousands of Delawareans in enrolling in health insurance coverage through the Marketplace,” said Lolita Lopez, President & CEO of Westside Family Healthcare. “Our neighbors have come to count on our enrollment specialists and navigators to dispel their fears, be a trusted source of information, and connect them to a medical home for primary care. As a community health center, our team remains committed to be a critical resource in the communities we serve.”

“Families in Florida and across America have been aided every year by independent navigators that help them find the best option for their health insurance.  In Florida, over 1.7 million of our neighbors – more than any other state – signed up for a marketplace policy last year, often with the help of a navigator.  This year the President and Republicans in Congress have made it more difficult for hardworking families to sign up for affordable health care due to their sabotage, including massive cuts for national outreach and enrollment efforts.  The Trump administration slashed funding by 80 percent since 2016 for health care navigators who help our neighbors find the best policy in the HealthCare.gov Marketplace,” said Rep. Castor.  “That is why I am introducing the ENROLL Act to safeguard the vital service health care navigators provide to our neighbors before, during and after open enrollment.”

“Consumers want lower costs, quality choices and a healthy insurance market and our health care navigators can help them gain the right coverage for their needs.  Here in Florida, local hospitals, community health centers and independent veteran navigators at the University of South Florida have helped us lead the nation in ACA enrollment in the HealthCare.gov Marketplace.  The significant cuts by the Trump administration to enrollment advertising and outreach will leave too many families in the lurch, especially families in Florida,” added Castor.

Several groups and organizations have come out in support of the ENROLL Act, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Young Invincibles, Community Catalyst, and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF).

"Lack of awareness about coverage options, particularly financial help and deadlines, is one of the biggest barriers in reaching the remaining uninsured. If we want to help those ‘hard to reach’ populations get covered, we need to invest in making sure they know that coverage is available and accessible. The navigator program has been a critical resource in this effort to educate and empower consumers," said Erin Hemlin, Young Invincibles' Director of Training and Consumer Education. "For young people, who are often purchasing insurance for the first time, restoring this funding would mean that they would once again get the impartial, expert guidance that only navigators can provide, and could help those who don’t know about open enrollment and the ACA marketplace find coverage before it’s too late. When first learning about their coverage options, young people need all the information they can get, and both in-person outreach and advertising make a difference in getting them covered. Fully funding navigator and outreach programs will vastly improve consumers’ ability to cut through the confusion and enroll in the coverage they need."

“Navigators provide an essential role to the community by providing culturally and linguistically tailored outreach for communities of color, immigrants and limited English proficient populations,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “Through their work, navigators have helped to cut the uninsured rate of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in half under the Affordable Care Act. We applaud U.S. Reps. Castor and Blunt Rochester for introducing the ENROLL Act and for working to eliminate barriers to enrollment and ensuring that everyone has accurate information about their health insurance options.”

Consumers can go to HealthCare.gov now to check out their options for 2019. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced earlier this month that HealthCare.gov will be scheduled to be offline for maintenance from midnight to noon each Sunday during open enrollment, except for the final Sunday, Dec. 9. CMS officials said they expect the actual downtime to be much less, citing last year when the site was offline for only a total of 21.5 hours out of a scheduled 60 hours.

Delawareans who need help enrolling in coverage will have access to free in-person assistance from federally funded and trained specialists at Westside Family Healthcare, and by certified applications counselors at Henrietta Johnson Medical Center in Wilmington and La Red Health Center in Georgetown.

State-licensed insurance agents and brokers are also available to help individuals re-enroll and to help employers update their coverage, at no extra charge.

For more information, go to www.ChooseHealthDE.com. You can enroll in marketplace coverage at www.HealthCare.gov or by calling 1 (800) 318-2596 (TTY: 1 855 889-4325).

For bill text, click here, and for a bill summary, click here.

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