CMS to invest $10M to promote Affordable Care Act open enrollment

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is investing $10 million in this year’s open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act.

The money will be spent educational activities to meet the needs of new and returning enrollees in understanding coverage options through the ACA’s Navigator program, CMS said Thursday.

Open enrollment starts November 1 and ends through December 15, which is a shorter period than in previous years.

But the money for enrollment education is a reversal from January when the Trump administration ceased advertising and outreach efforts for during the final days of the enrollment season. Cancelled were $4-5 million in ads set to air over the final weekend prior to the end of open enrollment on January 31.

[Also: Lawmakers demand answers after Trump administration yanks open enrollment advertising before deadline]

GOP lawmakers have been unable to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to repeal and replace the ACA established under President Obama.

While Trump and some Republicans have predicted the collapse of ACA markets, despite numerous insurers pulling out of the exchanges, the number of counties nationwide without coverage is now zero, down from 47 in a map released by CMS this June.

[Also: Last county without ACA insurer gains carrier]

Those working in the Navigator program established by the ACA, will be asked to assist consumers with plan selections, particularly focusing on consumers who are currently enrolled in coverage in areas where insurers have cut plans and where coverage options have been reduced.

For the 2018 enrollment period, CMS said it would target its advertising and outreach activities to educate consumers on the new dates of the open enrollment period through digital media, email, and text messages. Messages will also be targeted based on specific demographic and geographic data.

This approach is not only based on previous evaluations of past exchange outreach efforts, but is also consistent with promotional spending on Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D, CMS said.

Navigator funding comes from user fees paid by insurers participating in the federal exchange. This is the final year of a three-year grant cycle.

For the 2017 enrollment year, Navigators received over $62.5 million in federal grant funding while enrolling 81,426 individuals.

[Also: Skinny repeal fails as McCain defects in dramatic early-morning vote]

This year, for the upcoming enrollment period, Navigator will receive funding based on enrollment goals set during the previous year, CMS said.

For example, a Navigator grantee that achieved 100 percent of its enrollment goal for plan year 2017 will receive the same level of funding as last year, while a grantee that enrolled only 70 percent of its enrollment goal would receive 70 percent of its previous year funding level.

Consumers will continue to have multiple options to assist them in enrolling in coverage for 2018, including, call center, agents and brokers, and enrollment directly with an issuer, CMS said.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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