Wisconsin ‘Navigator’ Agency Stunned As Funding Cuts Are Announced

Funding Slated To End Sept. 1

AP Photo/LM Otero

Two months before people start signing up again for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration has dealt a big blow to a program that the president has described as “failing.” Outreach funding has been slashed, along with money for so-called “navigators,” including ones in Wisconsin.

Navigators help consumers sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and some said they’re stunned to find out federal funding will be cut next year. Donna Friedsam, who heads Wisconsin’s largest federally designated navigator agency, called Covering Wisconsin, said this week’s announcement was a surprise.

“We had been given reassurances by the (U.S.) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over the last two months that they were going to be supporting the navigator program and we were not given any reason to think that we weren’t going to be funded going forward,” she said.

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The federal government announced the decision Thursday, just a day before the funding was to end on Sept. 1, and weeks before outreach advertising would begin.

The Trump administration has cut ACA funding before. During the final weeks of last year’s signup period, ads for HealthCare.gov were pulled. Industry experts blamed the move for the lower enrollment.

Friedsam has written to both U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson about the ACA funding cuts in the hopes that Covering Wisconsin can continue its work without having to possibly lay off staff.