WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a cut of $27 million to the Navigator program, funding it only at $10 million for the 2019 fiscal year. The program, which has already been cut by nearly 50 percent from previous years, is required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Navigators are trained counselors who advise and ensure access to health care for individuals that need additional assistance, particularly the elderly, low income, limited English proficient and people with low health literacy who are not served by other entities. These cuts build on previous actions by the Administration to reduce enrollment help for consumers, including the weakening of navigator standards in rules governing plans for the upcoming year and major cuts in outreach funding during 2018 open enrollment.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Trump Administration continues to cut funding for the very successful Navigator program and only fund it for one year, creating further uncertainty for organizations that rely on this funding to reach communities most in need,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “Not only do Navigators help people sign up for marketplace coverage, they also help families enroll in Medicaid and work throughout the year to help them resolve problems, understand complex insurance terms and help them find doctors in their network. Yet, today’s announcement and planned changes ignore these vital functions.”

The Navigator program has successfully helped Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

  • In Salt Lake City, UT, the National Tongan-American Society (NTAS) used Navigator funding to help more than 2,000 Tongan and Samoan speaking individuals enroll in Medicaid coverage. Every month, NTAS serves between 2,000-3,000 people through health education, citizenship classes, voter registration, cultural preservation classes and multi-ethnic coalition building.
  • Dung Nguyen of Biloxi, MI has a family of four with income just above the poverty level. He was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago, but he and his wife have been unable to see a doctor since the birth of their second child. Neither of their employers offers health insurance. In 2018, working with a certified Navigator, the Nguyens were able to select a plan that was right for them and obtain health insurance for the first time.

“Fewer Navigators will mean fewer people will get covered,” said Ko Chin. “We strongly urge the Administration to restore full funding to the Navigator program and to provide multiple grants to organizations in each state, including at least one community-based organization with strong ties to the neighborhoods they serve.”