If you need health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, I can’t help you.
Something happened last night that makes it illegal for me to answer your questions and it is a deliberate attempt to take away our access to health care.
For the last four years, I have been a Navigator, a volunteer who helps people get health insurance. But as of today, I no longer can answer your questions.
We have been muzzled by funding cuts.
You see, there’s a rule that we can only work as volunteers through agencies that were funded to oversee us. That was to protect consumers from charlatans who might steer them the wrong way.
But this administration realized that if they cut the “advertising” funding (more accurately, outreach funding), agencies wouldn’t be able to pay the person who oversees the volunteers, and without that person, the volunteers wouldn’t be able to do their work. We could be silenced.
I haven’t seen this in the news yet, what with Harvey and Irma and Mueller and all.
It’s just not big enough news.
But it will be enough to keep a lot of people from getting the face-to-face help they need.
Make no mistake, this is a direct attack on the ability of some 33 million people to get health insurance, and with it, access to lifesaving care.
When Congress failed to kill the ACA, the Occupant of the White House swore he would find a way to do it, and he has decided to do it through seemingly innocuous funding cuts.
It’s no accident that the outreach budget was cut — that action muzzled thousands of volunteers who were trained to help. Don’t think the Occupant didn’t know that.
Consumers will think we didn’t need that “advertising” budget because everyone knows you can just go to www.healthcare.gov and get insurance.
But what if you hit a bump in the road? It’s easiest to get past any hurdles if you’re sitting with someone who understands the process and the law. Yes, you can call the 800 number, but what if there’s a 20-minute wait? A navigator would have answered the question then and there. It’s just another way to make the process less simple and less convenient.
I know what happens when people can’t get access to health insurance — they lose access to care, and they die. I have watched it happen. That’s why I became a Navigator.
On Tuesday, I’ll return the laptop to the agency where I volunteered. I’ll still take the training to qualify as a Navigator for 2018, but it’s not likely I’ll be able to use that training to help anyone.
By law, I can’t help you.
But let me know if you have any questions, I can point you to the answers. And if I happen to be in the room when you’re shopping for insurance, I will help you point the cursor to the right place on the screen. I can explain any jargon you have trouble with — kind of like your own personal dictionary.
We’ll call it my little act of resistance.