797 counties that participate in the Federal exchange will be left without any insurance navigators.
Insurance navigators, individuals or agencies that guide insurance customers through the Federal insurance marketplace, have been mandated by the ACA since 2013. The 2018 budget for navigators has dwindled to $10 million from $36 million in 2017 and $63 million in 2016. A total of 797 counties that participate in the Federal exchange will be left without any navigators during the current OEP.
At the advent of the ACA, insurance navigators were thought necessary to guide insurance customers through the complexities of enrollment. Navigator provide value for several reasons. First hey are obligated to be unbiased. They cannot be health insurers or receive compensation for enrollment of any groups or individuals in the exchange. Agents and brokers can be navigators, but not if they are being compensated by insurers for enrollment. Navigators must deliver fair and impartial information to customers.
Once an insurance consumer or employer has chosen a plan, insurance navigators execute enrollment in the exchange-qualifying for affordability programs if applicable and preparing documents. Navigators can also handle all customer service issues with current plans, referring consumers to the proper agency. Navigators serve various communities, speaking a variety of languages in a culturally appropriate manner.
There’s a heightened fear over the sharp decrease in insurance navigators as new short-term insurance or skinny plans flood the market with low prices and minimum coverage. President Trump recently changed the definition of “short-term insurance” from 3 to 36 months, opening the floodgates for the new bare bones policies expected during the current OEP.
Insurance consumers can expect a wider range of options during the OEP. With fewer insurance navigators, insurance customers may be enticed to select a lower cost plan without knowing exactly what they’re getting.