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More Democrats decry 'harmful, spiteful' ban on 'navigators' as Rick Scott avoids issue

Nine Florida Democrats serving in the U.S. House have joining the growing list of liberals bashing a state policy barring paid health care advisors from contacting patients at local health departments.

“This announcement from the Florida Department of Health is the latest attempt by Republicans in Florida to create roadblocks to successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "To ban Navigators from utilizing county health centers to assist uninsured people signing up for health insurance is simply unconscionable."

They ended the statement with a direct challenge to Gov. Rick Scott: “We call on Gov. Scott and the Florida Department of Health to put Floridians first and lift this harmful, spiteful ban immediately.”

(Scroll down for the full statement and a list of the nine congressmen.)

Asked Thursday to respond to the controvery, Scott told reporters his main concern about the navigators was privacy but stopped short of saying whether or not he agreed with the DOH policy.

He has not explained how much his office knew about the directive and whether he signed off before local health departments were told about it. Asked for Scott's response to a letter from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor Thursday, the governor's office directed reporters to the DOH communications staff.

The Herald/Times followed up with three questions:

  • -When was Gov. Scott was made aware of the DOH policy barring navigators from county health departments? 
  • -Was he consulted before the email was sent to the health department administrators? 
  • -Does he agree with the policy?

The response from spokeswoman Jackie Schutz, even after two follow-up emails:

"We were aware of the department's decision."

Officials from DOH continue to defend the decision to ban "navigators" from local health departments, saying it falls in line with a general policy of restricting access to outsiders. But Democrats see it as another attempt from Florida's Republican leadership to resist the federal health care law.

Meanwhile, Pinellas County's health department found a loophole to the policy. "Navigators" are stationed in the same building as the health department, and the DOH gave Pinellas permission to refer uninsured patients to the advisors, Health News Florida reported Thursday.

Other counties could follow suit, not allowing the "navigators" into their offices but ensuring they are stationed nearby to assist patients.

Here is the full statement from the Florida congressional Democrats:

 On Monday, the Florida Department of Health announced that health care outreach workers known as Navigators will not be allowed on county health center properties to help educate uninsured people about their health care insurance options available in the new marketplaces opening for enrollment on Oct. 1. Members of the Florida Congressional delegation, U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Corrine Brown (FL-05), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Ted Deutch (FL-21), Alan Grayson (FL-09), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Joe Garcia (FL-26), and Patrick Murphy (FL-18) released the following statement:

“This announcement from the Florida Department of Health is the latest attempt by Republicans in Florida to create roadblocks to successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act. To ban Navigators from utilizing county health centers to assist uninsured people signing up for health insurance is simply unconscionable.

“Navigators are specifically designated to help people understand their health insurance options and their goal is to reach as many uninsured or underinsured people in Florida as possible. County health care centers provide health care services to the uninsured, making them a logical location for Navigators to achieve their goals.

“Florida’s Department of Health says its’ mission is to “protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.” However, this latest round of political maneuvering flies in the face of that mission, and instead makes it harder to help the uninsured get the health insurance they need. Governor Scott’s and Florida Republicans’ obsession with opposing the Affordable Care Act at every turn, despite the fact that it’s the law of the land and was upheld by the Supreme Court, continues to harm Floridians.

“We call on Gov. Scott and the Florida Department of Health to put Floridians first and lift this harmful, spiteful ban immediately.”

Comments

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Ed Jenkins

Its perfectly understandable that such a partisan democrat group of politicians would be in favor of sending their party's operatives in to propagandize in favor of their law. However they need to understand that this is a state that has rejected the law by a large margin and the politicians leading our state are looking out for us by keeping the propagandists away. They can send these people to other states that weren't so against this law.

William Hamilton

Our Governor is clearly a "FRUITCAKE!" I believe he is trying to emulate "Tricky Dick Nixon" with all of these "DIRTY TRICKS" he keeps pulling. I long for the good old days when they still used "TAR and FEATHERS" on a varmint like our Governor.

Christine Kudulis

Explaining how a law works is not propaganda, and once people do understand the law, you and your real propagandists will skitter back into the holes from which you came, because finally Florida's people will be insured, and they will see you for what you are. This obstruction of life saving medical care is shameful and a disgrace. Come 2014 you are gone, and I'm an Independent, not a Democrat.

Marjorie Abrams

On Ann Scott's webpage, the family's philanthropic activities are described. This item I found especially interesting: "the Scott family worked to create a primary health care system in Bunyala, Kenya." Apparently Rick Scott supports a health care system for Kenyan's but not for Floridians. It is heartless and despicable for him to allow or instruct the Florida Health Departments to refuse to allow information, about the Affordable Health Care Act, to the very people who need such assistance!

eraz

I can't understand the idea that healthcare for all is bad. In what world are we living in here? Florida's people are lifting the veils and becoming more informed. So many uninsured people in this state! It's amazing. The policies of this state are ripping the 99% of us naked. Just open your eyes and you can clearly see... Stop following the herd of separatists and elitists because you think you have a shot at getting there. You don't. The system is designed to make sure you don't. But it keeps the window clear so you can foam at the mouth thinking you can get there. In order for this capitalist idea to keep moving, they must continue to have the majority of it's people in the rat race believing they have a real shot of joining the big wigs. I beg the citizens of the state of Florida to Stop. Drop. and THINK!

Hunter

Can someone tell me how a navigator can explain the benefits of an exchange policy when they have no formal training to even understand a benefits package offered under a federally or state approved health insurance policy? They literally have no training on this. They cannot have training, because that triggers "agent training" , which is a completely separate training tract regulated by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Health insurance agents are the only ones licenced, background checked and approved to explain the benefits of these policies, not navigators.

In fact, there are not even background check requirements for navigators. Someone can be trying to enroll people with a product and have a criminal record.

Put aside the partisanship for a moment and think about how foolish this is, allowing untrained, unsupervised people who may in fact have crominal records be explaining the benefits of an exchange policy or medicaid policy - when they have no training or understanding of the policies, benefits, premiums, incomee thresholds, etc...

Redundant

Hunter - Are you an insurance agent by any chance? Navigators do get training and do get back ground checks. Federal law trumps state law so Scott and his cronies better get out of the way.

John Wayne

Some of you people are really ignorant. I support our Governor in his stance against the Obamacare package, they are trying to shove it down everyone's throat. And with his stance against that, he IS looking out for the people. Why don't you try reading it? And when you do, come back and post why you have changed your mind. Do you not see what is happening with this package? Have you not seen the companies that are worried what this is going to do to them? So many people are going to lose jobs because of this. So many people will go to jail because of this. So many companies will shut their doors because of this. This country is in for a rude awakening!

Can't take anymore

Phony Cowboy Wayne, I guess you believe that all federal statutes are being shoved down your throat. Maybe you can go live with the new friend of American conservatives, Vladimir Putin. He is the same kind of strutting little rooster that would appeal to the 'Baggers if he was American. Peas in a pod.

Redundant

"Consumers can protect themselves by keeping in mind that no one can apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, compare plans or receive any enrollment documentation before October 1, 2013. Anyone who claims to offer an earlier application for coverage is trying to scam you."

Jeff

@John Wayne - Can you provide the specific sections or paragraphs you're referring to? Who is going to lose their jobs? Who's going to jail and where can I find information about that in the CFR?

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