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Florida Groups Helping Uninsured Are Getting “Intimidating” Letters from GOP Lawmakers

| September 9, 2013

Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican, chairs a subcommittee whose RRepublican members have sent letters to Floridian navigators, demanding answers to a list of questions. The Obama administration calls the letters a 'blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate.'

Rep. Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican, chairs a subcommittee whose RRepublican members have sent letters to Floridian navigators, demanding answers to a list of questions. The Obama administration calls the letters a ‘blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate.’

Eight groups that are hiring and training “navigators” to help uninsured Floridians enroll in Obamacare have been sent letters by a U.S. House committee seeking information on their activities  — a letter that some have called “intimidating.”

Two of the groups are public entities: University of South Florida and Pinellas County Board of Commissioners.

Two others are non-government groups based in Florida: Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County Inc. and Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

Four other groups are based elsewhere but received grants to hire and train navigators in Florida: the National Hispanic Council on Aging, Cardon Healthcare Network, Mental Health America and Advanced Patient Advocacy LLC.

Karen Basha Egozi, CEO of Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, said she’s never gotten a letter from Congress before. She said she was “taken aback at first, a little bit overwhelmed.” The amount of work involved in answering all the questions would be akin to answering a demand for discovery in a lawsuit, she said.

“I’m going to be as responsive as possible,” she said. “I’ll be in touch with them and explain we’re not huge, I’m not a big company that has attorneys on staff.

“All I know is my agency is in this to get people informed. We just do the public good, and we’re anxious to get started.”

Basha Egozi and her staff have begun 20 hours of online training provided through a federal website, after which they must take and pass a test. They are also hiring about nine new community outreach workers specifically for this project, and they too will have to go through the training and certification.

Then all navigators have to be certified through Florida’s Division of Financial Services, which requires a background check.

They need to be ready by Oct. 1, when the federal online Marketplace opens and millions of uninsured and confused Floridians are seeking help.

The letter requires that the organizations respond by Sept. 13. A statement released on behalf of USF President Judy Genshaft by USF Health’s Director of Public Affairs Anne DeLotto Baier said:

“USF will respond to the letter. The University is considering how best to respond as decisions remain at the appropriate administrative levels.”

The letter, signed by 15 Republican members of the committee, says they want to “better understand the work you will perform as a Navigator and the consumer  protections that will be in place” before the Marketplace opens.

Kaiser Health News reports some of the 51 organizations that received the letter regarded them as an effort to block Navigators from being trained in time to help the uninsured enroll in a health plan when the market opens. Kaiser quoted a food bank director in Ohio, who called the letter “quite offensive” and “absolutely shocking.”

Last week when word of the letter got out, the Obama administration called it a “blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate.”

The letters were sent to about half of the organizations that received federal “Navigator Grants” totaling $67 million. Florida’s share: $7.8 millionmore than half of which went to a consortium of consumer-help groups led by USF’s Covering Kids & Families, housed at USF College of Public Health.

Republican elected officials at both the federal and state level have made statements and taken actions that could have the effect of slowing down the rollout of the Marketplace, which will offer a choice of health plans and subsidies for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and other Republican state officials recently issued a warning that consumers who use the Marketplace may be risking identity theft. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act said the digital exchange has protections against such theft and said the statements were aimed at undermining the law.

On Wednesday, Former President Bill Clinton delivered a speech calling for Republicans to stop trying to repeal or defund the law. Instead, he said, they should work with Democrats to improve it.

“It seems to me that the benefits of the reform can’t be fully realized and the problem certainly can’t be solved unless both the supporters and the opponents of the original legislation work together to implement it and address the issues that arise whenever you change a system this complex,” Clinton said, according to the Associated Press. “There are always drafting errors, unintended consequences, unanticipated issues. We’re going to do better working together and learning together than we will trying over and over again to repeal the law or rooting for the reform to fail.”

–Carol Gentry, Health News Florida

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8 Responses for “Florida Groups Helping Uninsured Are Getting “Intimidating” Letters from GOP Lawmakers”

  1. John Boy says:

    Tea Baggers are Terrorists (American Talibans). Maybe they should be rounded up and put in Internment Camps that Wingnuts like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palen, et all talk about.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The GOP is proving itself to be a truly shameful! and soulless entity. Sending these demands for excessive amounts of information from agencies that are just trying to help people struggling with conditions that can be devastating without proper insurance, such as the Epilepsy Association…There aren’t even words to describe the cynical (and just plain mean) nature of such actions. As the sister of a brother who died from complications of Epilepsy, I am outraged! They are obviously targeting select groups in an attempt to obstruct and intimidate. As far as I’m concerned, the people who voted for these conscienceless creatures are just as blindly self-interested as they are. I hope Karma delivers them their just rewards and soon!

  3. Nancy N. says:

    And once again, the GOP demonstrates their core personality, that of the schoolyard bully.

  4. Sherry Epley says:

    It’s interesting to read the defensive comments (regarding other articles) saying how Republicans are judged too harshly. How they are only for the wealthy, and care nothing for those who are seeing the ladder to the American dream disappear before their very eyes. Well boys and girls. . . this kind of outrageous stunt is exactly why the GOP has the terrible reputation that they do. To the GOP, if you do not have the money for a generous campaign contribution, you DO NOT matter. If you are a struggling person of color, you DO NOT MATTER.

    Actually, the GOP will continue to do everything in their tremendous monied power to turn the vast, weak minded, FOX vombies against you. Making it seem that you are parasites, out to take the tax payers’ last penny. The trouble is, too many voters do not see through their “divide and conquer” tactics. Too many voters believe that “might is right”, even if is coming from the school yard bully.

  5. Becky Covington says:

    I’m glad they are trying to protect our personal information. I’m not quite as worried about it being compromised by those groups in FL having access to it in the signing up process as I am once the exchanges or ACA begins in earnest. Then, all of our financial data (IRS to make sure we are complying, if a subsidy is being taken unlawfully, etc) and all of our health info goes through the State Exchanges..(if your state has one) into the big Federal Cloud. That is ALL of yours and your families financial and health info from birth to grave. I do NOT like that. It has not been determined how they are going to keep that info secure. I don’t trust any Govt agency w/my info after all the partisan breaches and leaks by political hacks in 2010 election campaign period, and 2012 as well. Sure, legally an agency has to have compelling reason to access your info. But Govt officials don’t follow rule of law always, especially nowadays, and most have no fear of punishment. Nor do I trust criminal hackers, ID thieves.

    Besides the harvesting of private information, a recent FEDSMITH Govt employee survey found that over 90% of Govt employees don’t want to join ACA exchanges. Congressmen and their staffers, IRS employees don’t want to join either. Just today the AFL-CIO is yelling loudly. They think I want to subsidize 75% of Union healthcare? Heck no. Especially when they funded Obama’s election in large part, and helped them push for ACA to be passed.

    Forcing folks who pay Federal Income Tax to obey legislation elite govt officials passed that they themselves turn up their nose at and are getting waivers so they don’t have to participate, but we, the Federal Income Tax payers, do? That is patently immoral and corrupt. Remember, they had to be forced to put a clause in Obamacare saying all elected officials had to join the exchanges just to get it passed. But now they want out.

    And please. Stop the uncivilized name calling and labeling of those you disagree w/politically. Can’t believe civil debate has fallen so far, and even more absurd and frankly, frighening? Our ‘leaders’ using such tactics? Pelosi, Reid and Biden with their ‘tea baggers’ (how in the heck does she know what that means? I don’t know and don’t care to know myself, but it has to do w/weird sex? I think our Framers and Founders would be very sad to hear that. But of course, they’ve been labeled as racist old crackers who didn’t contribute squat but misery and despair.) Terrorists, Neanderthals, Anarchists? Please. Lets raise the levels of public discourse even if our elected officials won’t. But I suppose we elect ‘ourselves’ .

    And yeah. I get a little carried away and use language like ‘hacks’ and ‘elite’. Sorry. Trying to do better.

  6. Merrill Shapiro says:

    I’m late to the dance here, but must ask: Did these members of Congress have mothers? Fathers? Didn’t anyone tell them that if they want some information, they should include a word like “please?”

  7. Ohno says:

    Administration says ” blatant and shameful attack to intimidate ”

    Does the IRS come to mind?

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess “Ohno” missed the many articles and news reports that, after the frenzy and Obama bashing that began almost immediately subsided, vindicated his administration from charges that they were plotting to destroy the GOP by pointing out that as many Democratic groups were targeted for special attention by the IRS as Republican ones were. It was business as usual for the IRS (who has been getting away with this kind of nonsense for years and years and now, hopefully, will not find it so easy to continue to do so.) But I guess some people can hardly tear themselves away from FOX news long enough to read and listen to other sources of information that might be more accurate. Does the term “None so blind as those that refuse to see” come to mind?

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