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Dems slam controversial navigator policy

Democrats have even more criticism of the state decision to keep navigators out of county health departments.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, penned a strongly-worded letter to Gov. Rick Scott, calling the directive "poor public policy [that] could result in harm to Florida families." (Read the full text of the letter below.)

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, called the policy a "moral outrage."

Florida Democratic Party Communications Director Joshua Karp accused the Scott administration of "actively denying the uninsured information that will keep them healthier."

And state Rep. Victor Torres Jr., D-Orlando, said the directive would Hispanics.

“More than a third of Florida’s Hispanic community lacks health insurance, and our state has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation," Torres wrote in a statement. "For these reasons, I am outraged by the decision of Governor Rick Scott’s administration to make it harder for Floridians to get the information they need to attain affordable health care." 

Will the controversial policy survive the backlash?  
The state health department is holding firm.
Spokesman Nathan Dunn issued the following statement on Thursday: "Consistent with normal departmental practice, we do not allow outside organizations to access Department of Health office space and information technology systems to conduct activities. We are treating the request for Navigators' space as any other organization that has sought to establish a physical presence in a county health department. Protecting personal health information is a high priority for the Florida Department of Health."

Castor's letter:

RE: Absurd state pronouncement that health navigators are barred from local health departments

Dear Governor Scott and Surgeon General Armstrong: The State of Florida’s pronouncement yesterday that local experts in health plan enrollment, known as “navigators,” will be barred from local health department offices is absurd and in direct conflict with the State of Florida Health Improvement Plan. Our neighbors across the state need all assistance possible to review affordable options and obtain health coverage. Your pronouncement is poor public policy and could result in harm to Florida families.

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released statistics that demonstrated that 25% of Floridians are uninsured - the second highest in the country. Fortunately, a new online marketplace will be available on October 1 for families and businesses to compare plans and purchase insurance. Significant tax credits for small businesses and individuals will make coverage even more affordable. This also is good news for the majority of Floridians who already have health insurance because they are currently paying to cover the uninsured through cost shifting.

In addition to the plain absurdity of barring expert navigators who can answer health coverage questions from local health department offices where many uninsured seek services, your action is in direct contravention to the State Health Improvement Plan that aims to improve access to health care through goals such as protect the health of Floridians; prevent and reduce illness, injury and death; prevent chronic disease; maximize community partnerships to improve the health of Floridians; and improve access to primary care.

The continued obstruction by you and many state leaders of the Affordable Care Act is contrary to the best interests of the citizens and businesses of Florida. You have rejected millions in tax dollars that rightfully belong in our state. With the rejection of Medicaid expansion, State officials have heaped the burden of paying for the uninsured on Floridians with insurance. Your ideology even led you and the Republican-led Legislature to remove the authority of the Insurance Commissioner to negotiate insurance rates and leave Floridians to the whim of insurance companies. Now, to deny access to navigators at health departments is another obstructionist measure that elevates ideology over the interests of Floridians who simply need to see a doctor or nurse and take personal responsibility through enrolling in affordable insurance.

Sincerely,

Kathy Castor

United States Representative

Florida – District 14

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