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Maine Could Be Affected By Cuts To Affordable Care Act Navigator Program

The Trump administration says it will cut the funding for the program that helps people navigate the Affordable Care Act sign-up process by about 43 percent. That’s in addition to dramatically cutting advertising for the ACA’s open enrollment period.

In Maine, the navigator program is coordinated through Western Maine Community Action, with in-person navigators available throughout the state. Program Coordinator Ashley McCarthy says Thursday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was a shock.

“Navigators are so important in Maine, we do get a lot of folks that don’t have access to a computer or have the knowledge, like any of us, of how insurance works. You know it’s a huge impact on Maine to not have funding we did before,” she says.

McCarthy says Maine’s older population, relative lack of high-speed internet service and poverty make the in-person navigators all the more important.

“I have people who come in through the door, they don’t have email addresses, they don’t have a computer, they’ve never been on a computer,” she says. “They don’t necessarily want to call the marketplace — they want to be able to look at the plans online, they want to see what they’re enrolling in.”

She says at this point, it’s not clear exactly how much the administration will cut from Maine’s budget for navigators — DHHS says the funding will be based on “performance.”

Federal funding for the navigator program is being cut from $62.5 million for this year to $36.8 million for next year.

This story is made possible by a grant from the Doree Taylor Charitable Foundation.