Letter to Seema Verma, CMS Administrator - Reverse Harmful Navigator Cuts


Dear Administrator Verma:

As Members of Congress from Michigan, we write to express our opposition to cuts in health insurance Navigator services in our state and across the nation. We strongly urge you to reconsider these cuts, which threaten access to health coverage and other vital assistance for our constituents.

In an August 31st bulletin, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced cuts to Affordable Care Act (ACA) initiatives that benefit consumers in Michigan and across the country. According to this bulletin, CMS is instituting a 90 percent reduction in spending on ACA advertising and education efforts, as well as a draconian new funding formula that slashes more than 40 percent from grants to Navigator organizations that help individuals enroll in coverage through the Exchanges.

After many days of uncertainty, Navigators have now been informed of the full extent to which these cuts will impact their work. Funding cuts in Michigan will be devastating. The largest Navigator in the state, Enroll Michigan, has learned that their funding will be reduced from $1.2 million to $129,899 -- a nearly 90 percent cut that will decimate the work of 28 sub-grantees operating throughout the state. Funding for another major Navigator, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), will be cut by thirty-six percent from $555,000 to $352,478. These unexpected funding reductions jeopardize the future of Navigator organizations, and we are troubled by reports that groups have received no empirical justification for the cuts.

Navigators perform crucial work in our communities, directly helping individuals with a range of issues regarding their health coverage. In addition to their core work of guiding consumers through the enrollment process, these groups hold public events that educate individuals about their coverage options, help patients locate providers and select a primary care doctor, assist in Marketplace appeals, and troubleshoot taxpayer problems with Form 1095A. The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that a cut in funding for navigators and other ACA outreach and advertising will increase the number of Americans without health insurance.

By helping increase health coverage, Navigators touch the lives of consumers across America. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that in the ACA's first Open Enrollment Period, Navigators and similar groups assisted 10.6 million people with their coverage. In our home state, Enroll Michigan helped approximately 49,000 consumers with coverage issues last year alone, directly assisting 1,692 consumers in signing up on the Exchange and helping more than 7,200 enroll in the Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion. Without strong federal support for Navigators, consumers nationwide would find themselves without assistance and many would end up without health coverage at all.

On behalf of our constituents and consumers throughout the country, we strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and provide reasonable funding that will allow these groups to continue their important work. In the absence of such a reversal, your agency will be undermining our fundamental goal of helping Americans find affordable health care.