Get Covered Tennessee braces for ‘huge impact,’ possible layoffs as HHS cuts navigator funds

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Family and Children’s Service is expecting an estimated $1.1 million cut in federal funding to operate its statewide health insurance enrollment network, according to a program director.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on July 10 it was slashing funding for partner organizations around the country that employ navigators to get people enrolled into individual health insurance plans.

Sandy Dimick, Get Covered Tennessee program director, said FCS will be able to apply for funding up to $300,000 — a $1.1 million cut from 2018.

“This came out last night of course so we’re just sort of scrambling to see what we can do,” said Dimick. “This is going to have a huge impact.”

It currently employs 23 navigators around the state who help people purchase individual health insurance and apply for TennCare or CoverKids if they are eligible. TennCare takes applications via the site established by the Affordable Care Act.  

From Sept. 12, 2017 through June 30, the network had helped 6,198 people purchase individual health insurance and 7,575 people enroll in TennCare or CoverKids.

Dimick said if FCS receives $300,000 that’s enough funding for four navigators and one support staffer.

Unless there’s additional funding from other entities, Dimick anticipates layoffs in September when the current level of funding ends.

“We don’t know yet who we can ask. We’re not going to ask anyone to fill the (whole) gap, but if a few entities can pitch in a little then it will go a long way because we’re going to make it stretch,” said Dimick.