On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the Navigator grant recipients for the 2015-2018 open enrollment periods. In total, $67 million dollars were awarded to 100 organizations in the 34 states that operate Federally-facilitated, State Partnership and Supported State-Based Marketplaces and that will now provide enrollment assistance for the next three open enrollment cycles. While the majority of awards went to the same grant recipients as 2014, there are also many new grantees. In particular, HHS selected new recipients who will provide assistance in more counties in their respective states than in previous years. Additionally, HHS chose new grantees who demonstrated a strong capacity to reach specific, hard-to-reach populations.

After two years of enrollment, we know that consumers have developed trusted relationships with Navigators to help them access quality, affordable health care. We welcome the 2015 grant recipients because of their ability to help enrich the enrollment experience for consumers in several ways. First, awarding 2015 grants to many of the 2014 and 2013 recipients will provide consumers with consistency and familiarity in Navigator programs. Newly-enrolled consumers can now turn to the same Navigators they worked with in previous years for assistance with renewing or switching their coverage. However, selecting new Navigator recipients who are uniquely-positioned to reach populations with high numbers of uninsured consumers will help ensure the remaining uninsured are aware of their coverage options and financial assistance opportunities.

We would also like to acknowledge the organizations who served as Navigators in past years but will not participate in this year’s efforts. We know you worked tirelessly to connect your communities to coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in unique and creative ways. We hope you will continue to bring dedication and new ideas to the table by participating in the broader outreach and education efforts in states.

The three year grants and commitment to reaching the remaining uninsured is further proof that the ACA is here to stay. The combination of new and old grant recipients will provide for a robust and effective enrollment assistance system during the next open enrollment period and beyond. Helping the newly-enrolled and remaining uninsured to learn about their options from community members they know and trust ensures more consumers will enroll in or renew affordable plans that meet their needs.