END OF 2018 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD (42 states)

Time: D H M S

Hey, nifty...I helped inspire a Congressional Amendment!

Both Politico and Axios have picked up my story about the $60 million in ACA Open Enrollment Navigator/Outreach grants being cancelled at literally the last minute:

Politico:

Did CMS execute a last-minute reversal on navigator program? That's what independent blogger Charles Gaba is reporting, posting what appear to be internal CMS documents that show the agency was poised to essentially renew last year's funding for this year's ACA open enrollment.

One document posted by Gaba indicates that Randy Pate — tapped by the Trump administration to run Medicare's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight — signed off on $60 million in program funding on Aug. 24. More. However, CMS ultimately funded the program at less than $37 million for the upcoming enrollment, a 41 percent cut from last year.

... The administration wouldn't confirm the veracity of Gaba's report. "HHS does not comment on alleged, leaked documents," a spokesperson told PULSE. "The only final, legitimate decision is the one announced on August 31."

Aside from being somewhat amused at my very first "Administration Had No Comment" score...if the documents were leaked, that pretty much means by definition that they aren't "alleged", but whatever.

Axios:

Citing internal HHS documents, ACA enrollment analyst Charles Gaba reports that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was planning to fund enrollment "navigators" right up until the day the department's leaders decided to dramatically roll back that funding.

According to Gaba, who supports the ACA, career staff had gotten so far along in the process that grants had already been approved, and the press release announcing a 90% cut to outreach funding "was their first notification that these grants should not go out."

Why it matters: This would be just one more instance of the Washington making health-policy decisions by the seat of its khakis. President Trump is deciding the fate of the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies one month at a time. Congressional Republicans finalized their various repeal-and-replace bills a few hours before voting, if at all. As much as it's been said, it apparently bears repeating: There are few things the health care industry values more than predictability. And predictability is in short supply these days.

I'm glad to see both of these, but this one takes the cake:

Press release from New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01):

Shea-Porter Submits Amendment to Save ACA’s Navigator Program
September 5, 2017

Congresswoman Defends New Hampshire Enrollment Assistance Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today submitted an amendment that would save the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program from elimination in this week’s House omnibus appropriations bill.

“Navigators provide an essential, free service to people in New Hampshire and around the country who need help finding the best plan for their needs and budget,” said Shea-Porter. “Comparing coverage options can be confusing, especially for people who haven’t had insurance in the past. I’ve seen New Hampshire Navigators’ skill and compassion firsthand, which is why I’m fighting to protect this essential community program from partisan Washington attacks.”

The enrollment assistance program, which provided $600,000 for New Hampshire grantees to hire Navigators last year, faces escalating threats from the Trump administration and House Republicans. On Friday, the Trump administration proposed cutting the Navigator program by $23 million, while this week’s House Republican Omnibus bill would completely eliminate the program by prohibiting any funding for Navigator grants during the upcoming fiscal year. Shea-Porter’s amendment strikes this prohibition and instructs the Administration to return $3 million to the Navigator program. Earlier this year, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which administers the Navigator program, transferred $3 million in Navigator funding to conduct an anti-ACA study.

“Without local Navigator support, individuals and their families may lack information to make a thoughtful decision on insurance coverage options,” said Tess Stack Kuenning, President and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, one of New Hampshire’s Navigator grantees. “Navigators are an ongoing community resource to help ensure that New Hampshire families have the coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Since its inception, the Navigator program has helped educate over 9 million consumers about their coverage options. In New Hampshire, Navigators work through the Bi-State Primary Care Association and the state’s Community Health Centers to provide impartial information about Marketplace plans, help consumers understand and evaluate all their options and apply for federal tax subsidies to lower the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and assist residents throughout the enrollment process.

Tomorrow afternoon, the House Rules Committee will decide whether Shea-Porter’s amendment is in order for a House floor vote later in the week.

(Check out the "transferred" link)

Amusingly, the entire proposed amendment is a whopping 40 words long (including the title), but hey, I’ll take it. I highly doubt this amendment will actually go anywhere legislatively, of course, but this should at the very least shine some media spotlight on the latest ACA sabotage stunt being pulled by the Trump Administration.