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Arizona Loses Federal Money For ACA Enrollment

Reduced hours or even layoffs could be on the horizon for those who help consumers sign up for health plans on Arizona’s Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Across the country, the recipients of these federal grants had been in limbo after learning the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intended to cut the overall funding level by about 40 percent. The money helps pay for navigators who provide assistance to people buying health care coverage.

Arizona receives two grants to fund these positions.

Dr. Dan Derksen oversees one of those grants at the University of Arizona’s Center for Rural Health. He says their funding has been reduced by 14 percent.

“We are going to work on ways to make sure that none of our current employees and the services they provide are disrupted," Derksen said. "We are going to adapt.”

Their grant pays for five navigators in rural areas of the state with hard-to-reach populations.

Arizona's other grant recipient saw an even greater cutback.

“We had a 35 percent reduction in our funding," Tara Plese with the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers.

Her organization is in charge of Arizona’s larger grant, which is divvied up among more than a dozen community groups. Last year, it was about a million dollars.

“I do think it is an effort to move away from the marketplace," she said, "It essentially makes it much more difficult for people to get the health care coverage they need.”

What makes this outreach even more difficult now, she said, is that the advertising budget has been slashed by 90 percent, too. She said they are still working through how much they will need to scale back.

Neither she nor Derksen were aware of how the administration arrived at the new numbers.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.