The Florida Department of Health will not allow outreach workers to sign up uninsured residents for the Affordable Care Act at county health facilities across the state, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
"This program has raised privacy concerns due to the consumer information that will be gathered for use in a federal database," the department said in a statement. "In light of this uncertainty and as an integrated Department of Health we sought to provide a consistent message across each county in Florida."
The outreach workers, or "Navigators," as they're referred to by federal officials, will be allowed to distribute materials related to the law -- commonly known as Obamacare -- but only by request. The department's directive comes weeks before the federal health exchanges mandated by the law are implemented on Oct. 1. Several organizations in the state received nearly $8 million in federal grants to be used to hire and train navigators.
Health News Florida reported that the directive will not apply to 41 federally-qualified clinics currently operating in local departments. Those facilities received another $8.1 million in federal grants for the purpose of enrolling uninsured patients in a health plan.
The ban was quickly criticized online by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who wrote to Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Twitter, saying, "Time to end the political theatrics and work on implementation, NOT more obstruction."
Marc Yacht, retired health director for Pasco County, also slammed the move in an interview with Health News Florida, calling it "cruel and irresponsible," and saying it would compromise health care options for the nearly 3.8 million Floridians currently lacking health insurance.
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