Spanberger, Castor urging HHS to support health insurance navigators

Abigail SpanbergerReps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) are leading an effort calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide additional assistance to American families as they look for new health insurance coverage options during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since February, 15.2 million Americans have lost their jobs and access to employer-sponsored health insurance, and 13 percent of American workers are still unemployed and looking for work.

Newly unemployed individuals face a confusing array of health insurance options to continue their coverage. As a result, the demand for assistance has skyrocketed, with health insurance navigators across the country reporting unprecedented call volume and requests as individuals and families try to navigate the current health insurance landscape — especially those with pre-existing conditions.

In a letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, Spanberger, Castor, and 33 of their colleagues called on HHS to increase funding for navigators in states that rely on federally facilitated marketplaces — like Virginia and Florida.

Navigators are unique, because their funding comes from user fees insurers pay to participate in the federal marketplace, rather than general taxpayer revenue.

HHS support for navigators has decreased by 84 percent since 2016, even as the user fees paid by insurers remain substantially similar. In their letter, the members also urged HHS to recognize the need for additional funding for navigators as millions of Americans seek fair, accurate, and impartial coverage information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given the extent of the ongoing public health and economic crisis, we urge your department to increase funding for Navigator programs from the insurers’ user fees and release the awards as soon as possible,” said Spanberger, Castor, and their colleagues. “Increased and immediate access to funding will allow Navigators to effectively assist the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs and their insurance since the COVID-19 pandemic began. We also encourage your department to increase the Navigators’ funding for 2021 open enrollment, which is set to be renewed in September.”


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