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Experts Fear Obamacare Funding Cuts Could Gut Program

The White House has severely cut the funding for community groups, often called Navigators, that help people sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Raedle/Getty Images)
The White House has severely cut the funding for community groups, often called Navigators, that help people sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Raedle/Getty Images)
September 29, 2017

HOUSTON – This week, the Affordable Care Act survived another repeal effort in Congress, but behind the scenes, the federal government is adding obstacles and making major cuts to its funding.

The Department of Health and Human Services has slashed the ACA's advertising budget, and significantly reduced the grant funds for groups that assist people in signing up for healthcare, known as "Navigators."

Melissa McChesney, a Houston-based consultant for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, says the Trump Administration is trying to fulfill the President's claim that "Obamacare is failing."

"That will effectively undermine the ability for people to be able to know that the law is still in place and that coverage is still available," she says. "And therefore, we're likely to see a reduction in enrollment."

The White House cut the ACA's advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million.

According to McChesney, that will effectively eliminate most mass-media advertising. She adds that because of recent unsuccessful attempts in Congress to repeal Obamacare, some people aren't sure the program still exists.

She says cuts to the community-based Navigator program will also make it harder to help working families and the uninsured find coverage.

"Texas received a 35-percent cut overall, so we went from about $9 million to about $6 million," McChesney explains. "Some of the groups in Texas saw cuts well above that number."

McChesney says in Texas, the program is based in most major cities and in the Rio Grande Valley.

"A lot of the Navigators, all of their staff were bilingual or multilingual, and were able to provide that assistance in the native language of the consumer," she adds. "So, you'll see those Navigator cuts really hitting your more vulnerable populations."

She says the government has also cut in half the amount of time it allows people to sign up for health care. Open enrollment runs only from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 for policies that start in Jan. 2018.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX