TN nonprofit won’t apply for federal ACA enrollment grant, cites ‘conflict of interest,’ other concerns


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Affordable Care Act marketplace health insurance plans — in part, because the Trump administration’s position on the ACA marketplace isn’t “in line with our mission.”

The nonprofit previously used federal grant money for the Get Covered Tennessee Collaborative — last year, in the amount of $220,000 — to pay four trained “navigators” to help people choose and enroll in the appropriate health plan for them, as well as to operate its hotline, 844-644-5443.


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But this year, federal grant money to Tennessee overall will be reduced to $300,000, said THCC executive director Jacy Warrell — part of the national cut of more than 70 percent to navigator groups that the administration announced last week. 

Warrell said THCC decided not to compete with the nonprofit Family and Children’s Services, which provides more of the state’s navigators, for the limited funds. 

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“Taking federal dollars from an administration that continues to wreck havoc on the individual marketplace feels like too big a conflict of interest to our mission of advocating for access to affordable, high-quality health care for Tennesseans,” she said.

the best-known of which in Tennessee is offered by Farm Bureau — aren’t required to cover pre-existing health conditions, can charge more based on health history, and don’t have to offer minimum “essential benefits” such as maternity care, preventive health and mental/behavioral health services.

Advocates of the plans cite their affordability, especially for the 20 percent of Tennesseans who don’t get subsidies to help them afford Marketplace plans, and say Tennesseans should have the right to choose those plans as long as they understand what is and isn’t covered.


According to data from Gallup and Sharecare, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 1.3 percentage points in 2017.

But Warrell said the plans were designed to fill gaps in insurance coverage — such as between jobs — and aren’t a replacement for full health insurance.

“It is unusual for a nonprofit to not want to go after a grant opportunity,” she said, but added that THCC doesn’t feel comfortable promoting the association plans — let alone focusing on them — and wants “freedom” to voice that perspective.

That may mean referring some calls to its hotline to other agencies that still offer navigators, said Warrell, since THCC relies heavily on volunteers to both promote the ACA marketplace and help uninsured people enroll in plans.

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Warrell said those volunteers will still receive training on the 2019 enrollment process by partnering with Federally Qualified Health Centers, such as Cherokee Health in East Tennessee — important because two new insurers are entering the Tennessee marketplace, while two others are expanding their coverage areas.

“Our force and our presence has always been our volunteers,” she said. “Agencies all the time have to weigh what’s in line with their mission.”

She said THCC has applied for $120,000 in grant money “from other sources” for enrollment events and operating the hotline.

Open enrollment for 2019 insurance plans runs Nov. 1, 2018-Dec.15, 2018 at and community locations staffed by volunteer facilitators who educate individuals on eligibility and available plans and help them enroll.

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