Government Quadruples on Navigators to Help Those in Underserved Communities

The government awarded $80 million in grants to help 60 organizations train more than 1,500 navigators who will focus particularly on underserved communities.

In ramping up for a busy open enrollment period, the federal government is quadrupling the number of navigators it is funding to help consumers sign up for coverage on federally run health exchanges.

The government awarded $80 million in grants to help 60 organizations train more than 1,500 navigators. These navigators help consumers wend their way through the complexities of the health insurance so they can gain coverage on the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The navigators will focus particularly on underserved communities, such as racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community and those living in rural areas, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Under the Trump administration, navigator funding was slashed, dropping from $63 million in 2016 to $10 million in 2018.

The Biden administration has bumped up funding for navigators at the same time demand is growing for health insurance offered on federally run health exchanges.

A special enrollment period for ACA plans ended Aug. 15. Although sign-up figures haven’t been released yet, 1.8 million people had signed up for plans on federally operated exchanges through July 31, according to CMS. More than 700,000 more had signed up on state-run exchanges.

About 12 million Americans had signed up for insurance during the regular enrollment period, according to CMS.

The 2022 open enrollment period is set to begin Nov. 1 and run through Dec. 15, with coverage beginning Jan. 1.

A number of big players plan to expand their ACA presence in 2022. Aetna, which is part of CVS Health, has filed to enter eight states, including Texas and Florida.

Meanwhile, Cigna plans to enter three new states, including Pennsylvania and Georgia. In states where it already has a presence, it plans to expand to 93 new counties.