Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Scott's campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act

Gov. Rick Scott says he sides with Florida's families, yet he is obstructing their access to health care. Citing groundless privacy concerns, the governor is trying to block county health departments from assisting people in signing up for health insurance on the state's online marketplace that will open in a few weeks. It's one thing to voice philosophical objections to federal law. It's indefensible to stand in the doorway and deny Floridians access to health care.

The Florida Department of Health this week told the state's 60 local health department directors that local public health offices, where the uninsured often go for medical services or for help getting them, cannot have navigators on the premises. Under the Affordable Care Act, navigators are the helper-bees who will help people sort through their health insurance options starting Oct. 1, including how much they can expect in a federal subsidy, if any, and how to enroll online. But it isn't clear how much practical impact the state's edict will have. Some Florida counties, including Pinellas, have received federal grants to employ navigators and county health offices often operate from county-owned, not state-owned, buildings. Pinellas officials smartly maneuvered Thursday to make sure the navigators are still hired and will have work space.

Navigators have become targets for Republicans in Washington and Tallahassee, because they will be pivotal in signing people up for health insurance in the online marketplaces. In Congress, Republicans in the House are harassing them with burdensome and baseless requests for information. In Tallahassee, a law passed earlier this year requires navigators to be fingerprinted and have a background check.

Critics of navigators raise privacy and information security concerns when people provide their personal information. The issues were raised last month by Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. But it's a red herring to cover an overtly political agenda. The navigator program has in place privacy safeguards and strict data security protocols, and navigators will be fully trained.

In the Tampa Bay region and most of the rest of the state, the program is being overseen by the University of South Florida. Jodi Ray, the project director, has plenty of experience signing people up for health benefits and responsibly handling their data. And the people who ask navigators for help will be doing so voluntarily.

What the Scott administration has done is recklessly spread confusion. It isn't clear where the ban on navigators applies and where it doesn't. For instance, the 41 clinics in the state that are federally qualified health centers can use navigators. Whether navigators can be barred from county owned buildings anywhere in the state is an unknown. In Hillsborough, of the seven buildings where the health department operates, the state owns only one.

Helping uninsured Floridians acquire affordable health care coverage should be the goal of every state leader. Navigators will soon be available to smooth that process along. But Scott would rather play politics than help Floridians get the coverage they so desperately need.

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17