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Tennessee Obamacare Navigators Will Start Selling Insurance Amid Funding Cuts

Tennessee Health Care Campaign Facebook page

A key health care advocacy group in the state is reinventing itself amid federal funding cuts. After losing a grant to hire Obamacare insurance navigators, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign has decided to just start selling plans itself.

The Affordable Care Act included funding to have so-called navigators help people sort through all of the newly available insurance plans. But the Trump administration slashed that funding.

Instead of competing for what’s left, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign has applied with the state to become a nonprofit insurance broker. Executive director Jacy Warrell says one former navigator has already passed the licensing exam with potentially more to come.


Warrell says the agents will be more like social workers than insurance brokers and won’t get to keep the commission for signing people up for the priciest plans. Rather, she says, their only financial incentive will be to qualify someone for TennCare, which doesn’t pay a commission.

"We don’t want there to be any confusion as to why we’re doing this. So we want to make it clear that this is just an avenue for us to sustain the work that we’ve been doing," she says. "Our focus is really helping anyone in need, regardless of what kind of plan they would qualify for."

The business model is fashioned after the Palmetto Project in South Carolina where the organization is now sustaining a dozen former navigators. It was only the second nonprofit insurance broker in the nation.

The Tennessee Health Care Campaign would be the first in Tennessee and hopes to begin selling plans before the end of open enrollment Dec. 15.

The organization would not offer so-called association plans, which are not compliant with Affordable Care Act rules. The nonprofit has said it's not comfortable promoting plans with limited benefits.

"As an advocacy organization, it's very important for us to be involved in enrollment," Warrell says. "This is really our way to listen to the needs of Tennesseans."

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