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July 24 2017

Cutting the Strings on Obamacare Enrollment Assistance

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Strip malls in major cities across America will have one fewer occupant when taxpayer dollars run out on a program that assists people in signing up for Obamacare.

The Department of Health and Human Services notified contractors last week that it would not renew the final year of their contracts ending a program created under by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to bring assistance into libraries, businesses, and urban neighborhoods in 18 cities for people to sign up for coverage. Some of the cities include Miami, Tampa, and Orland in Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New Orleans, Louisania; Cleveland and Chicago in Illinois; and Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio in Texas.

Community organizations and companies could apply for the grants to train people as customer service represnetatives in essence, who helped consumers apply for coverage and answer questions they might have including deciphering the different healthcare policies available.

The Community organizers are claiming this is an effort to by the Administration ot make Obamacare fail:

"There's a clear pattern of the administration trying to undermine and sabotage the Affordable Care Act," said Elizabeth Hagan, associate director of coverage initiatives for the liberal advocacy group Families USA. "It's not letting the law fail, it's making the law fail."

But community advocates expected the vendors' help for at least another year. "It has our heads spinning about how to meet the needs in communities," said Inna Rubin of United Way of Metro Chicago, who helps run an Illinois health access coalition.

However, the program was never meant to be permanent. There are other sources of information that customers can turn to. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid:

“These contracts were intended to help CMS provide temporary, in-person enrollment support during the early years" of the exchanges, Norris said. Other federally funded help with enrollment will continue, she said, including a year-round call center and grant-funded navigator programs. The existing program is "robust" and "we have the on-the-ground resources necessary" in key cities, Norris said.

Furthermore, it’s questionable whether contracted assistance was that impactful or has lost effectiveness as the years have rolled on. According to reports, two contractors CSRA and Cognosant had contracts of $12.8 million and $9.6 million, respectively, set to expire at the end of August. Together they assisted 14,500 enrollments, which is fewer people than the 1 percent of the 9.2 million people who signed up through the website Healthcare.gov, and at an average cost of about $1,545 per enrollee. Healthcare.gov may have had its flaws, but has certainly been more impactful at enrollment than stationing people in malls and libraries 

Expect to hear community groups that lost funding decry the efforts to scale back this program as an assault on poor people, but the real assault on Americans has been higher premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs, and fewer choices for quality care because of the ACA.

Too many taxpayer dollars have been wasted on President Obama’s healthcare experiment. It’s time for fiscal responsibility and discipline to scrap this program which has run its course.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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