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News

Gov. Scott does his best to make Obamacare unnavigable

Conspiracy theories regarding healthcare “navigators” prove tough to refute

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“This is another blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance option and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years,” HHS spokesman Fabien Levy said, according to the Miami Herald.

And herein lies the problem. The Florida DOH, ostensibly a sickly appendage of Scott’s administration, is seemingly pretending that it is above federal law – this despite the fact that the state receives billions from the federal government for health services annually, and the Florida DOH is even linked from the federal HHS website. While the Navigator program may seem new and confusing in the bureaucratic sense – as in, “We’ve never seen these folks before” – the DOH has a stated mission to “protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida.” How does holding your nose and establishing impediments to the sharing of information accomplish that?

In some cases, this is just screwing up an already hurried plan (thanks to Florida dragging its feet on Obamacare implementation). Pinellas County won a $600,000 Navigator grant, and was already partnering with the local health department to optimize the program. Now there will have to be an unnecessary workaround.

“It’s really sad and disappointing to see once again our Tallahassee leadership just determined to politicize health care,” Pinellas County Commission chairman Ken Welch told public radio affiliate WJCT. “I’m hoping cooler heads are going to prevail. It makes no sense.”

Retired Pasco County health director Dr. Marc Yacht took the anger further, saying that the new policy will “significantly compromise a multitude of needy Floridians from getting health care,” according to Health News Florida, adding that the move was “cruel and irresponsible.”

Closer to home, Orange County Health Department spokesman Dain Weister couldn’t comment on the motivations for the statewide mandate (“You’ll have to ask Tallahassee,” he says), but he does point to some gray areas in which the county health department will likely be rubbing elbows with Navigators anyway. There are two sites where OCHD is co-located with federally approved medical centers, which are exempt from Grigg’s Scott-fed edict. Also, OCHD collaborates with the county-funded Primary Care Access Network, which is slated to assist with Obamacare outreach. So it really is just a political thing when it comes down to the actual human level. Your chocolate will likely still get in our peanut butter, only it will be more difficult to achieve and less effective.

“The bottom line with this, from our standpoint, is that we’re still going to be allowed to give out the information and materials, coupling people up with the Navigators,” Weister says. “They just have concerns about privacy.”

Sure they do.

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