Press Release

Castor: Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act health policies starts Thursday; FL has led country in enrollment every year but Trump administration makes it more difficult this year; new legislation would aid consumers

With focus on midterm elections, consumers may not be aware of Open Enrollment

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Washington, October 30, 2018 | comments
Today, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) introduced the Expand Navigators’ Resources for Outreach, Learning and Longevity (ENROLL) Act to secure the vital service that independent health care Navigators provide to our neighbors before, during and after Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment – which begins November 1 and goes through December 15.
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Today, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14) and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) introduced the Expand Navigators’ Resources for Outreach, Learning and Longevity (ENROLL) Act to secure the vital service that independent health care Navigators provide to our neighbors before, during and after Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment – which begins November 1 and goes through December 15.

“Families in Florida and across America have been aided every year by independent Navigators that help them find the best option for their health insurance.  In Florida, over 1.7 million of our neighbors – more than any other state – signed up for a marketplace policy last year, often with the help of a Navigator.  This year the President and Republicans in Congress have made it more difficult for hardworking families to sign up for affordable health care due to their sabotage, including massive cuts for national outreach and enrollment efforts.  The Trump administration has slashed funding by 80 percent since 2016 for health care Navigators who help our neighbors find the best policy in the HealthCare.gov Marketplace,” U.S. Rep. Castor said.  “That is why I am introducing the ENROLL Act to safeguard the vital service health care Navigators provide to our neighbors before, during and after open enrollment.”

The ENROLL Act guarantees funding for Navigator initiatives that provide critical assistance to help hardworking families pick the health plan that is right for them.  The legislation would also boost outreach and educational activities to let our neighbors know about their coverage options and if financial support is available to help purchase coverage.

“Consumers want lower costs, quality choices and a healthy insurance market and our health care Navigators can help them gain the right coverage for their needs.  Here in Florida, local hospitals, community health centers and independent veteran Navigators at the University of South Florida have helped us lead the nation in ACA enrollment in the HealthCare.gov Marketplace.  The significant cuts by the Trump administration to enrollment advertising and outreach will leave too many families in the lurch, especially families in Florida.”

“Over the past two years, funding cuts and burdensome requirements have prevented marketplace navigators from providing counsel to consumers looking to enroll in health insurance plans that work best for them,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester.  “Choosing an insurance plan is a deeply personal decision, and marketplace navigators help people select a plan that meets their individualized needs.  This bill gives navigators the tools and resources they need to assist and empower folks to make that decision, while also playing a vital role in ensuring people are aware and understand the financial assistance and coverage options available to them.  Healthcare is one of our most essential rights, and I believe this bill will help make meaningful progress in our efforts to increase access to quality coverage.”

Several groups and organizations have come out in support of the ENROLL Act, including Young Invincibles, Community Catalyst, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

"Lack of awareness about coverage options, particularly financial help and deadlines, is one of the biggest barriers in reaching the remaining uninsured.  If we want to help those ‘hard to reach’ populations get covered, we need to invest in making sure they know that coverage is available and accessible.  The Navigator program has been a critical resource in this effort to educate and empower consumers," said Erin Hemlin, Young Invincibles' Director of Training and Consumer Education.  "For young people, who are often purchasing insurance for the first time, restoring this funding would mean that they would once again get the impartial, expert guidance that only Navigators can provide, and could help those who don’t know about open enrollment and the ACA marketplace find coverage before it’s too late.  When first learning about their coverage options, young people need all the information they can get, and both in-person outreach and advertising make a difference in getting them covered.  Fully funding Navigator and outreach programs will vastly improve consumers’ ability to cut through the confusion and enroll in the coverage they need."

“In-person assistance to help people to get, keep and use their health insurance options remains essential,” said Dara Taylor, director of consumer assistance with Community Catalyst.  “Our network of state and community-based partners were forced to do more with less last year and that continues into the sixth open enrollment period beginning on November 1.  With the majority of Americans eligible for financial assistance and more insurers offering a wider array of plans this year, a bigger investment in funding for in-person assistance is critical as people find the best plan to meet their needs.”

“Navigators provide an essential role to the community by providing culturally and linguistically tailored outreach for communities of color, immigrants and limited English proficient populations,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum.  “Through their work, Navigators have helped to cut the uninsured rate of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in half under the Affordable Care Act.   We applaud U.S. Reps. Castor and Blunt Rochester for introducing the ENROLL Act and for working to eliminate barriers to enrollment and ensuring that everyone has accurate information about their health insurance options.”

“Florida could not have led the nation in enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace last year and in previous years without investment in outreach and unbiased consumer assistance like our Navigators provide,” U.S. Rep. Castor concluded.  “Through my ENROLL Act, we can ensure that our neighbors keep receiving help finding the right health insurance plan for them.  We can also undo some of the sabotage the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress and at the state level have done to our affordable health care.”

Open enrollment in the HealthCare.gov Marketplace begins November 1 and goes through December 15. Neighbors in Florida and across the nation can preview the affordable plans available now on HealthCare.gov and can receive free advice from CoveringFlorida Navigators and other grassroots experts. Help is available and appointments can be made at CoveringFlorida.org.

U.S. Rep. Castor serves as Vice Ranking Member of the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee, and helped to draft the Affordable Care Act to ensure it works for families and businesses.  Since ACA open enrollment started in 2013, Florida has led the nation in the number of sign-ups on HealthCare.gov – last year 1.7 million Floridians enrolled in the Affordable Care Act.

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