Funding the navigators: Florida’s Obamacare helpers get another $6.8 million

Round two of Obamacare open enrollment is eight weeks away, and the Obama administration is once again spending millions on “navigator” outreach programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week it’s handing out $60 million in new funding for 90 organizations.

Florida was among the top states, garnering nearly $6.8 million — only Texas received more.

The grant recipients are tasked with continuing sign-up efforts aimed at enrolling eligible participants in mostly government subsidized health insurance plans. The funding is going to states where the federal government either runs a health insurance exchange or partners with state officials.

obamacare navigators-620x424But signing up new participants may not be nearly as difficult this time around as properly re-enrolling existing customers.

Many of the 8 million people the administration says previously enrolled through Healthcare.gov are not expecting to go through the sign-up process again. In June, it was announced that all plans would renew automatically.

That could prove costly.

“A convenience that should come as a welcome relief for those who persevered to land affordable health insurance now holds the potential to unwittingly pick their pocket,”reported Bankrate.com, a consumer financial services company based in North Palm Beach.

Florida’s Obamacare premium prices are set to increase an average of 13.2 percent, and enrollees receiving government subsidies could pay more if they allow their plans to renew automatically based on last year’s rates. Just because the plan renews doesn’t mean the subsidy is automatically recalculated.

That could spell trouble for Florida’s 1 million enrollees — 91 percent of which receive taxpayer subsidies — and send navigators scrambling during the new four-month enrollment period beginning Nov. 15.

“These awards support preparation and outreach activities in year two of Marketplace enrollment and build on lessons learned from last year,” a HHS statement reads.

Reasonably significant changes in income also are likely to create problems, said Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Naples-based Foundation for Government Accountability, a market-oriented nonprofit specializing in health policy.

“In an effort to keep enrollment numbers as high as possible under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has put in place a policy that is likely to result in families paying the IRS more money,” Archambault said in an email.

More at Watchdog.org.

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

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