CMS gives massive $80M increase to navigators for 2022 coverage plan year

The Biden administration will give Affordable Care Act (ACA) navigators $80 million for the 2022 plan year, reversing slides in funding that occurred during the Trump administration.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announcement Wednesday comes as the Biden administration has made several moves to bolster the ACA, including boosting subsidies and extending a special enrollment period through August for anyone impacted by the pandemic.

“This eight-fold increase in navigator funding will help consumers deciding whether to enroll or continue their healthcare coverage through during the open enrollment period this fall,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement on Wednesday.

Navigators are trained to assist people in coverage decisions and to perform outreach for ACA sign-ups. Some navigators can also assist other types of coverage sign-ups such as Medicaid eligibility.

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The $80 million is a massive increase from the $10 million annual awards the Trump administration gave to navigators every coverage year starting in 2019. CMS also gave navigators $36.2 million for the 2018 coverage year, down from $63 million the Obama administration gave groups for the 2016 and 2017 enrollment periods.

The cuts to navigators were part of a larger effort by the Trump administration to decrease funding for ACA outreach. The administration argued that the ACA enrollment period was already well known but advocates of the law said that it was part of an effort to sabotage sign-ups.

CMS also announced that more than 12 million people signed up for an ACA plan during the 2021 open enrollment period, a 5% bump from the 2020 open enrollment period.

“Nationally, returning consumers made up 79% of consumers with a plan selection during the 2021 [open enrollment period],” compared to 75% in the 2020 [open enrollment period],” CMS said in a release.