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Gov. Scott, Cabinet raise privacy concerns of healthcare reform

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Steve Cannon/AP photo

@dchangmiami  Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Cabinet, meeting at Miami Dade College Tuesday morning, raised concerns about the safety of private information supplied by Floridians to federally-funded “navigators” whose job it will be to guide consumers through the process of enrolling in health insurance programs through online exchanges scheduled to launch Oct. 1.

Casting the navigators program as a federal government effort to create a database of personal information with no clear purpose, Scott and Cabinet members including Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said they worried that the information could be abused by identity thieves and others.

“This is a consumer protection issue. This is an identity theft issue,’’ said Bondi, who on Aug. 14 co-authored a letter along with 12 other state attorneys general sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius raising the privacy concerns.

Atwater, whose agency regulates Florida health insurance agents and brokers, called the navigator program “mission creep of the worst kind with no destination in sight.’’

Federal officials, however, said navigators will be required to comply with privacy and security standards, and will never obtain information without consumers’ consent.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the navigators program has precedent in existing government healthcare programs.

“HHS has run in-person assistance programs for years to help Americans enroll in Medicare and Medicaid,’’ Peters said. “The navigators will be one more resource for Americans to learn about their health insurance options, enroll in the [health insurance] marketplaces, and find the plan that is best for themselves and their families.’’

Navigators are workers who will educate consumers about new health insurance options and walk them through the enrollment process, though they will not be allowed to sell insurance policies or steer consumers to specific plans.

Though Florida’s Legislature passed a law this year requiring navigators to register with the state and submit to criminal background checks and fingerprinting, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, who delivered a presentation to the Cabinet on the privacy concerns related to navigators, said he does not know if the federal government will preclude the state from enforcing that law.

He said the federal government will have much of the information that would be needed to prosecute a rogue navigator, and it “remains to be seen” if the government would share that information with state officials seeking to prosecute.

State officials also raised concerns about the adequacy of the 20 hours of training that navigators will receive. Read more

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