(University of Miami Hospital. 3.8 million Florida residents are uninsured. Photo/Getty Images )

Concern over FL ban of health insurance “navigators” from health departments

Outreach workers known as navigators are being used throughout the country to help people sign up and obtain information about the Affordable Care Act and health insurance enrollment options. options.

But in Florida, navigators will not be allowed on the grounds of county health departments.

The order to keep the navigators out of county health departments came from Florida Deputy Health Secretary C. Meade Grigg, who advised the 60 local health department directors in the state.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the local departments will be able to accept materials about insurance from the navigators, but the materials will only be distributed if someone asks for it.

“However, navigators will not conduct activities on the grounds of the health department,” a statement from the Florida Department of Health said.

The department said the move is because of privacy concerns, particularly in regards to the information that will be obtained by the navigators.

Various Republicans in Florida, including Gov. Rick Scott, have been critical about “Obamacare”  and say this would compile huge data of Americans’ health information, referring to it as a privacy concern. They also expressed worry about the possibility that navigators could steal personal information.

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Federal health officials have said applicant information is not stored in a database. They say navigators will go through intensive training, undergo background checks and will not have access to the information once its been submitted.

“This is 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,” the United States Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement.

Gabriel Sanchez, the Assistant Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, has been studying  the Afordable Care Act and Latinos.  He says he believes it’s “party politics” because “conservatives have been pretty much anti-navigators in the whole process.” His concern is that other states will follow Florida’s example.

“Given that our data strongly suggests that Latinos will need more help to enroll in the first place– and one of the major resources are the navigators– it could have an effect on the Latino population and enrollment,” Sanchez said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman (D-Fla) used social media to criticize Scott and said there should not be more drawbacks in regards to the Affordable Care Act.

Other advocacy organizations like Americans United for Change, questioned why Grigg would be “standing in the way of Floridians enrolling in a plan.”

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“Grigg should know better than most that thousands of people die every year because they didn’t have insurance,” said  Jeremy Funk, communications director at Americans United for Change.

Navigators are funded through state and federal grant programs, and must complete comprehensive training. Florida, where 3.8 million people are uninsured, is currently in the process of hiring and training their navigators.

“Despite the state’s attempts, we are confident that navigators will still be able to help Floridians enroll in quality, affordable health coverage when open enrollment begins on October 1,” Levy said.

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