Iowa's Planned Parenthood affiliate is ending its Affordable Care Act navigator program that helps Iowans sign up for health insurance after federal officials cut the organization’s navigator grant by 84 percent.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland was the biggest of Iowa’s three ACA navigator programs. At least 50 counties in Iowa will lose federally-funded assistance with health insurance sign-up as a result of the cut.
"Despite the massive funding cut, the grant also required that we continue to meet all the same measurements and continue to reach 78 counties in Iowa, which is just impossible," says Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's spokeswoman Rachel Lopez.
Lopez says it appears federal officials focused on one performance measure and did not consider the multiple goals Planned Parenthood met or exceeded.
The organization’s six navigators have helped 83,520 Iowans access health insurance since 2013. That includes buying individual health insurance on the ACA exchange and signing up for Medicaid benefits.
Lopez says the organization is "disheartened" by this move.
"There are people who struggle with access for a variety of reasons, whether it’s lack of access to internet, language barriers, or geographic barriers," Lopez says. "A lot of people will really not know where to go."
The cuts came as navigators were ramping up outreach ahead of the open enrollment period under the ACA, which starts Nov. 1.
Trump administration officials have criticized the navigator program for spending too much. Critics say these grant cuts are a political move to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
The two other navigator programs in Iowa also took funding cuts. Visiting Nurse Services had its navigator grant cut by 15 percent and will continue to offer enrollment services in 22 counties. The grant to Genesis Health in the Quad Cities was cut by 90 percent.