10:04 AM, Apr 17, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
The system of federal and state "exchanges" or "marketplaces" that offer health insurance through the Affordable Care Act lean heavily on "navigators" to guide consumers in their choices. Organizations such as community health centers, legal aid societies, social service groups, church groups and even Planned Parenthood chapters have received grants in the past to serve in this capacity. Now the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $201 million in grants to be made available for navigators over the next three years.
Until now, grants have been awarded on an annual basis. This time around, HHS is planning to change the "project period" from 12 to 36 months. Tricia Brooks of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families is enthusiastic about this change. Writing at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms blog (CHIRblog), Brooks says:
But what really excited me about the notice – drumroll please – is that, in the supporting statement, CMS signaled its intent to provide three years of funding in the next round of navigator grants. Extending the length of the funding period is important to build stability in enrollment assistance programs. No longer will individual navigators have to put their resume on the street at the end of the grant year, just in case. Three-year funding periods will enable navigator entities to recruit and retain permanent, professional consumer assisters and assure high quality assistance for consumers.
Brooks also notes that HHS plans to substantially cut weekly and quarterly reporting requirements for navigators while increasing monthly requirements. She urges potential grantees to submit comments to HHS regarding these and other changes.
The grant announcement also provides details of what is expected of all marketplace navigators:
• Conducting public education activities to raise awareness about the Marketplace;
• Maintaining a physical presence in the Marketplace service area
• Facilitating selection of a QHP;
• Providing information in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to the population served by the Marketplace, including individuals with limited English proficiency and that is accessible to individuals with disabilities;
• Complying with applicable training and conflict of interest standards;
• Obtaining the authorization of applicants for coverage available through a Marketplace application prior to accessing their personally identifiable information;
Also listed are prohibited activities, largely aimed at limiting potential conflicts of interest:
• Charging any applicant for or enrollee in coverage available through the Marketplace for application or other assistance related to Navigator duties;
Compensating individual Navigators on a per-application, per-individual-assisted, or per enrollment basis;
• Providing certain kinds of gifts to any applicant or potential enrollee as an inducement for enrollment;
• Using Marketplace funds to purchase gifts or gift cards, or promotional items that market or promote the products or services of a third party, that would be provided to any applicant for or potential enrollee in coverage available through the Marketplace;
• Soliciting any consumer for application or enrollment assistance by going door-to-door or through other unsolicited means of direct contact, except in cases where the individual
has a pre-existing relationship with the individual Navigator or Navigator entity; and
• Initiating any telephone call to a consumer using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, except in cases where the individual Navigator or Navigator entity has a relationship with the consumer.
HHS also stresses the training and certification needed for personnel to be qualified to serve as navigators:
Navigators must complete at least 20 hours of an HHS developed training program and pass an online exam to ensure appropriate understanding of relevant Marketplace-related information and must be federally certified before carrying out any consumer assistance functions.
In spite of the change to a three-year period, HHS notes that "all personnel serving as Navigators must obtain continuing education and be re-certified on at least an annual basis."
Share of Each Taxpayer Dollar Spent on Health Care Up 22 Percent Since 2012.
7:43 AM, Apr 16, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Every year since 2011, the White House has used tax time to post a "Federal Taxpayer Receipt" showing taxpayers how their federal tax dollars are being spent.
Two hundred straight polls have found Obamacare to be unpopular.7:04 AM, Mar 23, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
It has now been five years since President Obama signed Obamacare into law — and more than two years and two months since any poll found it to be popular. The last time a poll found Obamacare to be popular was during Obama’s first term.
7:23 AM, Mar 20, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Given that Obamacare’s supporters like to take the Congressional Budget Office’s overly optimistic scoring of the president’s signature legislation as gospel, it’s fun to look at how poorly Obamacare is actually doing in relation to earlier CBO projections. When the Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2010 without a single Republican vote, the CBO said that the unpopular overhaul would lead to a net increase of 26 million people with health insurance by 2015 (15 million through Medicaid plus 13 million through the Obamacare exchanges minus 2 million who would otherwise have had private insurance but wouldn’t because of Obamacare).
10:05 AM, Mar 5, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who rode his opposition to Obamacare to a seat in the Senate, has introduced legislation that should help Republicans avoid turning a potential victory at the Supreme Court into a defeat for the cause of repeal. Sasse’s bill, introduced yesterday evening, is designed to keep Republican governors and state legislators from setting up state-based exchanges in the wak
9:34 AM, Mar 4, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Five years ago this month — on the night the Democrats passed Obamacare through the House without a single Republican vote — Paul Ryan proclaimed on the House floor, “This moment may mark a temporary conclusion of the health-care debate, but its place in history has not yet been decided. If this passes, the quest to reclaim the American idea is not over. The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished. It is just a steeper hill to climb, and it is a climb that we will make!”
10:01 AM, Feb 28, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Over the past few days at CPAC, Sean Hannity has asked various prospective Republican presidential candidates to list their “top five agenda items.” Former governor Jeb Bush’s list did not include repealing Obamacare.
7:11 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Usually when the Obama administration is discussing doctors and health issues, Obamacare is on the table. Thursday, however, the White House threw a curve by linking health to climate change.
12:09 PM, Feb 26, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether the Obama administration has been illegally providing taxpayer-funded subsidies in 36 states under the guise of implementing Obamacare, and there’s been much debate about what Congress should do if the Court rules that the administration’s actions have been lawless. A new McLaughlin & Associates poll, commissioned by
7:12 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
The Obama administration in recent weeks has been trumpeting the number of signups for health insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces for 2015, but at least 90,000 consumers who had coverage last year are losing it.
10:34 AM, Feb 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Associated Press reports:
About 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers got the wrong tax information from the government, the Obama administration said Friday, and officials are asking those affected to delay filing their 2014 returns.
9:21 AM, Feb 15, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
In an effort to sign up as many consumers as possible for insurance under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), the Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to partner with churches and other faith-based groups, even publishing sample church bulletin inserts, flyers, and scripts for announcements, as well as "talking points." These materials are part of the "