The system of federal and state “exchanges” or “marketplaces” that offer health insurance through the Affordable Care Act lean heavily on “navigators” to guide consumers in their choices. Organizations such as community health centers, legal aid societies, social service groups, church groups and even Planned Parenthood chapters have received grants in the past to serve in this capacity. Now the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $201 million in grants to be made available for navigators over the next three years.
Until now, grants have been awarded on an annual basis. This time around, HHS is planning to change the “project period” from 12 to 36 months. Tricia Brooks of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families is enthusiastic about this change. Writing at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms blog (CHIRblog), Brooks says:
But what really excited me about the notice – drumroll please – is that, in the supporting statement, CMS signaled its intent to provide three years of funding in the next round of navigator grants. Extending the length of the funding period is important to build stability in enrollment assistance programs. No longer will individual navigators have to put their resume on the street at the end of the grant year, just in case. Three-year funding periods will enable navigator entities to recruit and retain permanent, professional consumer assisters and assure high quality assistance for consumers.