As the Oct. 1 rollout of the new health insurance marketplace draws near, the controversy over the insurance outreach workers known as navigators is building to a crescendo in Florida.
But is the outcry warranted — or political theater aimed at hampering the Affordable Care Act?
Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, both Republicans, have repeatedly blasted the navigator program, saying the outreach workers will have unreasonable access to private information. What’s more, the state Department of Health said privacy concerns prompted a decision to ban navigators from county health departments.
“We’re warning people to be careful because they’re going to have your personal information and we’re having a hard time getting answers,” Bondi told Fox News last week.
Supporters of the federal law, however, point out that a recently passed Florida law sets up some privacy safeguards for consumers by requiring navigators to undergo background checks. The law also enables state officials to establish rules and dismiss navigators who violate them.
“Elected officials, particularly Rick Scott and Pam Bondi, are going out there and making it seem like there is no protection for citizens,” said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. “The truth is, we put in some major regulations for who can become a navigator. They are creating a false sense of alarm.”