Health & Spirit

Money for health law navigators slashed — except where it's not

Alexandra Olgin, WFAE on

Published in Health & Fitness

And with less help from the federal government, Quenga said, she feels the pressure mounting to get more people signed up for coverage during this year's shorter enrollment period. If she does, there's a chance her navigator group will be better funded next year.

The picture is very different in North Carolina. There, navigator groups had only about 10 percent of their federal funding cut.

Jennifer Simmons coordinates North Carolina's largest navigator program, the NC Navigator Consortium, and said she's happy to report there will be someone available in each of the state's 100 counties during the six weeks of open enrollment this year.

They'll help people like Ilia Henderson, who is 26 and lives in Huntersville, just outside of Charlotte. She is one of those young, healthy people insurance companies want and she's getting ready to sign up for coverage with navigator Julieanne Taylor.

Last year, Taylor helped Henderson, a massage therapist and student, sign up for a medical and dental plan within half an hour for a good price -- just over $100 a month. She looks forward to working with Taylor to find a similarly good deal for 2018. Simmons said her navigators will be in libraries, public health departments and even churches around the state.

"We are remaining really laser-focused on making sure that consumers across North Carolina are able to get info they need," she said.

"There are a lot of people that need renewal services and help in making sure that the marketplace has their updated information and that the plan that they are in is still the right plan for their family," Simmons said. "But we are also trying to reach new people."

Last year, North Carolina had one of the highest enrollments, with more than half a million people signing up. South Carolina, with about half of North Carolina's population, has more than 183,000 people enrolled.


Sabrina Corlette with Georgetown University's Center on Health Insurance Reform predicts enrollment numbers will drop during this open enrollment period.

"It's just been decision after decision," she said, "including this navigator funding cut that will ultimately lead not to just lower enrollment in the marketplaces but sicker enrollment in the marketplaces."

And if that happens, Corlette said, count on higher premiums with fewer people in the insurance pool.

(Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This story is part of a partnership that includes WFAE, NPR and Kaiser Health News.)

(c)2017 Kaiser Health News

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