With just two weeks left until the opening of the online exchanges, local agencies responsible for hiring Navigators say they will be ready. Navigators are specially trained workers paid with federal grant money to help people “navigate” the online exchanges. But, Florida is one of several states in which the Navigator program is facing numerous obstacles
One of the first potential obstacles came as a letter from members of Congress, asking the eight groups hiring and training navigators to provide detailed information on their activity. Then the Florida Department of Health, citing privacy concerns, said it will not allow Navigators to work within its office spaces. Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County’s Dawn Stewart said local organizations hiring and training navigators are working through the obstacles.
“We will be ready, and we’re looking forward to seeing you on October 1st,” Stewart said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Orlando last week and said the Department of Health’s position is a “disservice to Florida.” She also expressed concern over the letters from Congress.
“I find it really disturbing that members of Congress would suggest that this is unusual or activity that should not be allowed to go forward,” she said.
One day before Sebelius’ visit, Governor Rick Scott again raised the privacy issue.
“My concern about the Navigators is that we don’t know how they’re going to be using the information they’re getting from our citizens, we don’t know how it’s going to be shared, so my biggest concern about the Navigators is privacy,” said Scott.
Dawn Stewart said multiple organizations, including the Healthy Start Coalition, have been doing this exact type of work in Florida for years.
“We assist families and ask for social security numbers, to my knowledge, there’s not been any problem with that, at least not in Central Florida,” she said.
Steward said Central Florida will have 11 navigators, all with impressive backgrounds. She said they’re receiving a high level of training and screening, and information they gather will not be kept by them. Once it’s uploaded, it will vanish from their computers.