December 11, 2018

Luján And Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman-Elect Question Trump Administration's Actions In Removing Latino Engagement Document Before Open Enrollment Period

Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) was joined by Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Chairman-Elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in sending a letter this week demanding an explanation from the administration on reports that they had removed a document titled “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” from its Health Insurance Marketplace website. The removed PDF was a slide presentation intended as a training resource for assisters. It focused on the challenges Latinos might face when enrolling for coverage and included guidance on making services culturally and linguistically appropriate.

In a letter sent to Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and the Administrator of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Seema Verma, the lawmakers expressed their concern that the administration was intentionally making it more difficult for Latinos to enroll and were attempting to further destabilize insurance markets across the country.

The letter reads in part, “The Latino population is already an underserved population and even the Office of Minority Health reports Latinos have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. Furthermore, outreach from assisters and navigator programs have shown to be particularly effective in expanding coverage among the Latino population. The removal of this PDF creates an additional obstacle to those attempting to provide valuable assistance to the community.”

The legislators demanded an explanation from the Administration for the removal of the document, asking for the intent of  “removing the PDF from the website and denying assisters and navigators access to this information.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Alex Azar
Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201 

The Honorable Seema Verma
Administrator
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244 

Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma:

I write to you today deeply troubled by reports of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) removal of the “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” from its Health Insurance Marketplace website. The Health Insurance Marketplace, serves as the official Marketplace Information source for assisters, individuals and organizations trained to provide free help to consumers and small businesses interested in enrolling in health coverage. The removed PDF was a slide presentation intended as a training resource for assisters that focused on the challenges Latinos might face when enrolling for coverage, as well as guidance on making services culturally and linguistically appropriate. I am concerned the removal of this PDF not only reduces access to valuable training and outreach resources, but additionally demonstrates CMS’s lack of commitment on improving access to healthcare for Latino communities.

The Latino population is already an underserved population and even the Office of Minority Health reports Latinos have the “highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States.[1]” Furthermore, outreach from assisters and navigator programs have shown to be particularly effective in expanding coverage among the Latino population. The removal of this PDF creates an additional obstacle to those attempting to provide valuable assistance to the community. Given my concerns, please provide answers to the following questions and requests:

  1. On what date was the “Marketplace Outreach: Best Practices for Outreach to Latino Communities” PDF removed from the Health Insurance Marketplace website? Additionally, will the PDF be published on the CMS website in the future? If so, when?
  2. What was CMS intent for removing the PDF from the website and denying assisters and navigators access to this information?
  3. It has been reported that a CMS spokesperson claimed the removal of the PDF was the result of the PDF containing outdated information; however, we are concerned about the timing of the removal given it has not been replaced with approximately nine days remining in the Open Enrollment period. Given that, please detail the outdated information and provide a timeline for updates.

  4. According to existing regulations, assisters are required to meet a set of training standards to ensure their expertise in the needs of underserved and vulnerable populations. The removal of this PDF, however, prevents them from fulfilling the training standards to the best of their ability. Did CMS provide other supplemental guidance on best practices for outreach to the Latino Community to the assisters and navigators?

As the Open Enrollment Period closes in five days, it is more critical than ever that the Administration seek to provide quality access to healthcare as quickly as possible. Furthermore, this need is especially vital to vulnerable and underserved communities such as the Latino community.  We look forward to your response to, and discussion of, the concerns outlined. Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Ben Ray Luján
U.S. House of Representatives
Assistant Speaker-Designate

Joaquin Castro
Chairman Elect
Congressional Hispanic Caucus

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Press Contact

Miguel R. Salazar (CHC) (202) 536-9418
Jamie Geller (Castro) (202) 809-2813
Lauren Dart (Lujan) (202) 225-6190

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