By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
For the past month, Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials have been launching a political fight over people hired by the federal government to enroll Florida residents into the state’s health care exchange program. Now, Scott has taken his concerns over to Congress.
Scott and other state officials have said they are concerned that these Obamacare employees, called navigators, are not properly suited to handle medical information, which Scott claims could cause invasions of privacy.
According to the Associated Press, Scott “wrote to top congressional leaders Monday expressing concern about the security of people’s personal information as they sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.” The AP reports:
In the letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he also urged Congress to use whatever means necessary to ensure the proper safeguards are in place.
“Floridians should not have to exchange their privacy for insurance,” Scott said in the letter. He called Florida “ground zero” for the Obama administration’s efforts to enroll people in the new health care exchanges, a key component of the law.
Scott’s concerns focus on the “navigators” — counselors trained to walk people through the intricacies of the new law and sort through various insurance plans.
He mentioned a Minnesota navigator who mistakenly received Social Security numbers for 2,400 people from a state exchange employee.
The navigators are supposed to start enrolling Floridians starting October 1 for the health care exchange– an online marketplace for health insurance.
The state of Florida decided to not create its own health insurance market, which is mandated by the law. The market is aimed at making insurance more competitive and accessible. Because the state refused to create its own exchanges, the federal government stepped in and created one for Florida. However, Scott and other state officials are stalling this effort, as well.
According to The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, a state official ordered county health departments last week to not allow navigators enroll people in their buildings. The Herald/Times reports:
The order from Deputy Health Secretary C. Meade Grigg went out [to] the 60 local health department directors across the state.
Grigg declined to comment on the directive. But health department spokeswoman Ashley Carr said there was a need for “clarity” and “a consistent message” across the agency.
“Navigators are not acting on behalf of the Department of Health and this program has raised privacy concerns due to the consumer information that will be gathered for use in a federal database,” Carr wrote in a statement.
Health and Human Services Department spokesman Fabien Levy called the Florida directive “another blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years.”
He added that “despite the state’s attempts, we are confident that navigators will still be able to help Floridians enroll” in health insurance plans.
This isn’t the only obstruction to the Affordable Care Act coming from Florida officials. Since the law was passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida officials have turned down health grants allocated through the law, they decided not to expand Medicaid, and have prohibited the state insurance commissioner from regulating insurance premiums.
Some county officials have been getting around the state-ordered obstruction of navigators, though. Pinellas County health officials said because their facilities are county-owned, they wouldn’t have to follow the ban.