Gov. Rick Scott urged congressional leaders Monday to review federal privacy rules for “navigators” — workers now fanning out across Florida and other states to guide consumers toward new health coverage options.
Scott, who fought the Affordable Care Act even before it cleared Congress in 2010, acknowledged in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the measure is “now the law of the land.”
But Scott said “we are increasingly concerned about how the implementation of the law will affect Floridians.”
“I respectfully request you take immediate action by whatever means available to thoroughly review what privacy rules and safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ personal information, both when they consult with “navigators” and when their information is entered into the federal data hub,” Scott said in his letter.
Scott and other Republicans opposing the law have questioned whether navigators will know enough to direct people toward appropriate insurance coverage and whether they can be trusted with the personal data shared by consumers seeking help.
Federal health and human services officials have said background checks are being conducted on workers hired as navigators. These workers also must agree to follow federal ethics policies, officials said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to appear Tuesday at Miami-Dade College to promote the federal health care law. It’s her third visit to Florida in less than a week.
On Monday in Jacksonville, Sebelius condemned the Scott administration’s decision to keep navigators out of state health department offices where they intended to help people sign up for coverage when online marketplaces open Oct. 1.
Sebelius said, “Florida has done some pretty unbelievable things.”
Scott, in his letter to Boehner and Reid, defended the health department prohibition saying, “we have a direct obligation to ensure Floridians’ privacy is protected.”
Florida was among two-dozen states that earlier sued and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office led that lawsuit, last month was among 13 attorneys general who sent a letter to Sebelius challenging whether there was enough consumer data protection in the navigator program.
With Republican leaders raising concerns, Democrats have fought back at the federal, state and even local level.
In Boynton Beach on Monday, U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, hosted a roundtable discussion in defense of the navigators.
“It seems Gov. Scott and his staff spend their time conjuring new ways to keep Floridians in the dark about their health care choices coming Oct. 1,” Deutch said.
Frankel said, “They want it to fail not on its merits but by obstructing people and confusing people.”
Staff writer Charles Elmore contributed to this report.