Amid fears of Trump administration sabotage, ACA navigators get early start on open enrollment preparation

Healthcare.gov site on computer
ACA counselors worry the Trump administration may undermine their open enrollment outreach.

Affordable Care Act enrollment counselors are getting ready for open enrollment earlier than usual this year amid signs that the Trump administration may not fully support community outreach efforts.

About 100 navigator groups across the country received $63 million in federal grants last year, but these groups are unsure that they will get the same funding from the Trump administration, according to an article from The New York Times.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Hill that projected cuts to the funding could reach $5 million.

Matt Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, told the Times he has had encouraging discussions with staff at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but employees at the agency said the federal government will not buoy open enrollment with advertising this year.

Trump's administration pulled the plug on an ad campaign during the final days of the previous open enrollment period, as well.

It also seems unlikely that President Donald Trump, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price or other administration leaders will make appearances in person to promote the enrollment period, according to the Times article. Former President Barack Obama and former HHS secretaries Kathleen Sebelius and Sylvia Matthews Burwell did so often.

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Also playing a role is the shortened enrollment period. Catherine Edwards, executive director of the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging, told The Hill that she will be hitting that point hard.

"We're not going to have the luxury of that time. So our message from the beginning is going to be the more urgent message: Now is the time," she said. 

Senate Democrats have expressed concern about the Trump administration's plans for open enrollment and have requested a briefing on the matter. In a letter sent to Price last week, the senators suggested that the lack of federal support for open enrollment outreach could have dire consequences.

“Rather than encouraging enrollment in the marketplaces, the administration appears intent on depressing it, which we fear will contribute to destabilizing insurance markets and drive up costs to consumers,” they wrote.