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."
3:38 PM, Mar 17, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Federal agencies set a new record for improper payments last year, shelling out $125 billion in questionable benefits after years of declines.
9:07 AM, Mar 17, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
When President Obama attended the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia last November, the entire delegation required over 5,000 room nights at five different hotels over the cours
The presidential candidates could learn from Indiana’s governor.4:39 PM, Feb 28, 2015 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Lost in much of the reporting about CPAC is that almost all of the likely presidential candidates—really, all of them, with the exception of Rand Paul—seemed to place themselves at the Reaganite hawkish-internationalist end of the foreign policy spectrum. The much-heralded return of Republican isolationism or anti-interventionism wasn’t much in evidence, except during Rand Paul's half hour on the stage.
1:23 PM, Feb 24, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
A bipartisan group of mmore than eighty influential national security experts, from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Michèle Flournoy to Bill Kristol, have written a letter to congressional leadership to urge increased defense spending.
9:05 AM, Feb 13, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Vice President Biden spent about a day and a half in Belgium in early February to meet with various European leaders, but his entourage, security team and other delegation members required up to 209 rooms for up to three weeks surrounding the visit.
9:04 AM, Feb 11, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
In January, the State Department signed contracts for an estimated $1,690,000 million for hotels for President Obama's trip to India. Two of the contracts were for the New Delhi stay, and another two were for Agra, the location of the Taj Mahal. That latter leg of the trip was cancelled when President Obama decided to leave early to pay his respects to the recently deceased king of Saudi Arabia. The president stayed in New Delhi for two nights.
7:33 AM, Feb 3, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is working on a solution to a problem faced by a growing number of Americans as the population ages and relies more on prescription drugs: "What is this pill?" Much in the way a Google image search looks for similar images in Google's vast caches, the NIH's National Library of Medicine (NLM) desires a tool to match users' smart phone photos of mystery pills with hi-res images in the NLM's existing RxIMAGE database
9:10 AM, Jan 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Under President Obama, $7.5 trillion has been added to the national debt. The number is being highlighted by the Republican National Committee ahead of President Obama's State of the Union address, which will be delivered tonight from Washington.
12:01 PM, Dec 16, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
When President Obama visited Brisbane, Australia in November for the G-20 summit, the large U.S. delegation required multiple hotels and thousands of "room nights" for the length of the stay, though the president himself spent only one night in his hotel.
5:28 PM, Dec 15, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In one final ignominious act of parliamentary genius, outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid rolled Republican troublemaker Ted Cruz of Texas over the weekend, robbing the GOP of a chance to stop Democrats in the lame-duck session.
9:42 PM, Dec 11, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
The House of Representatives passed a long-term spending bill Thursday night, just hours before the current continuing budget resolution is set to run out. The vote of 219 to 206, including nearly 60 Democrats, took longer than the alotted 15 minutes as House members from both parties witheld their votes for several minutes.