Advocates blast Scott for fanning fear of ObamaCareby John Kennedy | August 21st, 2013
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act pushed back Wednesday against Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Cabinet members who a day earlier raised concerns that the privacy of uninsured Floridians could be compromised when they sign-up this fall for health coverage.
“The governor of a state with more than 4 million uninsured should not be discouraging people from getting care,” said Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is assisting non-profit organizations contracted with federal authorities as “navigators” in getting the word out about enrollment beginning Oct. 1.
Nick Duran, the Florida director for Enroll America, which is leading the effort, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that surveys show 55 percent of uninsured Floridians are unaware of the enrollment requirement.
Meanwhile, the Republican-ruled Florida state government has taken few steps to advance enrollment, advocates said. Florida had earlier spearheaded an unsuccessful legal campaign by two-dozen states looking to block the Affordable Care Act from taking effect.
“We have not had much help from the state, to tell you the truth,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a statewide health advocacy organization that will receive federal grant money as a navigator. “It’d be helpful if they got the word out.”
By contrast, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater raised concerns at a Cabinet meeting in Miami on Tuesday, warning that the enrollment process could lead to privacy violations and identity theft affecting many low-income Floridians.
Bondi also is among 13 Republican state attorneys general who last week demanded that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answer questions about the navigator program.
“Federal safeguards that should be in place to protect our privacy are behind schedule and inadequate,” Scott said. “It is unclear how the federal government will protect personal information from being stolen or otherwise misused.”
Advocates say that many of the nonprofits doing the outreach already contract with the state for various programs. State legislators during the 2013 session approved a health law (SB 1842) that requires navigators hired in Florida to be registered with the state, be U.S. citizens or legal aliens and undergo background checks by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.