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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

HHS, liberal group criticize Florida over latest 'navigators' dustup



Health News Florida reported Wednesday that the Florida Department of Health barred county health departments from allowing outreach workers called Navigators onto their property to help uninsured people sign up for subsidized health coverage.

As that story made the rounds, we heard from an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which continues to have strong reaction as Florida leaders show resistance to the law.

HHS spokesman Fabien Levy:

"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. . 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."

In addition, Americans United for Change, an advocacy group supporting implementation of health care reform, also sent over a biting statement targeted at the DOH official who sent out the edict.

Statement from Jeremy Funk, the organization's communications director:

"C. Meade Grigg, the deputy Florida Department of Health secretary for statewide services, must be sick of his job because clearly he has no interest in doing it anymore. According to the FL DOH website, its Mission is to ‘protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida,’ its Vision is to ‘be the Healthiest State in the Nation’.

Mr. Grigg needs to explain how that mission was not entirely compromised when he banished from FL health department premises the people who have been tapped by the federal government to help uninsured Floridians navigate the new health law and the benefits available to them.

Among the groups that for no good reason Griggs has deemed outcasts: the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, Mental Health America and the National Hispanic Council on Aging. Grigg should know better than most that thousands of people die every year because they didn’t have insurance, so why is he standing in the way of Floridians enrolling in a plan?

Retired Pasco County Health Director Dr. Marc Yacht is absolutely right: Grigg's actions are 'cruel and irresponsible.' I would add incompetent."

And now we have a statement from Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, part of the House Democrats leadership team:

“I am deeply disappointed to learn that the Florida Department of Health intends to prevent county health departments from allowing outreach workers known as Navigators onto their properties. This action seems shortsighted and out of touch with the needs of the millions of Floridians without health insurance.

“Thus far, I’ve seen no good justification for this mandate from Governor Scott’s administration. I’m sure that many other Floridians share my skepticism and are hopeful that this order will be reversed.

"As those of us who have health coverage recognize, there are many complexities to health insurance. Reliable consumer information provided by the Navigators will help Floridians learn about their options for obtaining reasonably priced health coverage. When making decisions about health care for their families, consumers deserve the unbiased and trustworthy information that Navigators can provide.”

Florida Democratic Party communications director Joshua Karp accused the Scott administration of "actively denying the uninsured information that will keep them healthier" in a statement emailed to the media:

"Rick Scott's partisanship and blatant obstructionism appears to know no bounds. Rather than helping people understand the new services available under the health care law, the Scott administration is engaging in a partisan sabotage mission," he said.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 12, 2013 2:42pm]


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