California: CoveredCA announces $6.3 million in ACA navigator grant funding for 2020

via Covered California:

Covered California Announces Grants to Community-Based Organizations Across California in Preparation for 2020 and Beyond

  • Community-based organizations and clinics will receive a total of $6.3 million in grant funding to help people enroll in quality health care coverage.
  • The 105 organizations reflect California’s diversity and will target populations that are hard to reach, uninsured and eligible for financial help through Covered California.
  • Approximately 89 percent of Californians live within a 15-minute drive of these community-based organizations.

Covered California announced Friday that it intends to partner with 105 community-based organizations to educate consumers about their health care options, offer in-person enrollment and renewal assistance and provide ongoing support on how to get the best value from their health plan. The Navigator grants announced are part of Covered California’s ongoing commitment to support robust marketing and outreach, including working with trusted organizations throughout the state to help hard-to-reach people understand this new era of health care.

“We are partnering with experienced and trusted agencies, which represent the diversity of our state, to make sure every person knows about the financial help and quality coverage that is available through Covered California,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Our plans for marketing and our continued commitment to supporting these local organizations, as well as the over 10,000 local insurance agents, are particularly important as we look ahead to the enrollment year for 2020 and beyond when California will likely be charting a new path to expand coverage for many Californians.”

The organizations will receive annual grants through Covered California’s Navigator program. The investment is part of Covered California’s proposed $111 million marketing, outreach and sales budget for next year. Covered California’s aggressive outreach campaign helped it achieve one of the best take-up rates in the country, which in turn meant that enrollees in California were about 20 percent healthier on average than the enrollment of the 38 states that rely on the federal government to promote enrollment. The healthier population enrolling means that premiums in California are 20 percent lower than they would have been if the states enrollment looked more like much of the rest of the nation.

It's worth keeping in mind that HealthCare.Gov, which covers the 38 states referred to above, has slashed their combined marketing and navigator budget down to just $20 million ($10 million for each program). Those 38 states have a combined population nearly 6x as large as California, but their marketing/outreach budget is 1/5th the size, which might explain why exchange enrollment has dropped 13.5% since 2016 while the states which operate their own exchanges have actually increased their enrollment by over 3% (to be fair, California's enrollment specifically has dropped about 4% over the same time period).

The part about the relative risk pools is also interesting. I'm guessing it's not an exact 1:1 relationship (i.e., 20% healthier risk pool = 20% lower premiums)...there are probably some other factors related to the local economy and other demographics which would come into play...but it's still worth noting.

“Health coverage is something that needs to be sold, particularly to young and healthy individuals who are not familiar with insurance,” Lee said. “Getting confidential and local one-on-one help from trusted sources is particularly important for the communities we target with these Navigator grants: Latino, African-American, Asian and Pacific-Islander and LGBTQ.”

The 105 organizations will have a total of 556 enrollment locations across California, meaning that 89 percent of people in the state will live within a 15-minute drive of a Navigator.

In addition to Covered California’s Navigator program, the agency also works with more than 15,000 Certified Insurance Agents and other representatives throughout the state. Enrolling in person is important to many people, as seen during the last open-enrollment period when nearly 70 percent of people signed up for coverage with the assistance of a Certified Insurance Agent, Certified Enrollment Counselors, Plan-Based Enroller, county eligibility worker or Covered California service center representative.

“Working with these organizations is a tremendous opportunity to expand Covered California’s reach throughout the state,” said Terri Convey, director of Covered California’s Individual and Small Business Outreach and Sales Division. “For many people, there is nothing better than being able to sit down with someone in your community who can explain your options and help you make the best choice.”

A list of Navigator organizations and the amounts Covered California intends to award is available online.

The Navigator program and Covered California’s marketing efforts are funded by revenue generated by Covered California. Navigators receive no state or federal support. Organizations were selected through a competitive grant application process.