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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Compromise allows Obamacare counselors on Pinellas property

A compromise between Pinellas County and the state Department of Health will make it possible for Affordable Care Act counselors to operate within easy reach of the health department staff.

The agreement in Pinellas County came after the state health department announced earlier this week that the counselors, known as Navigators, wouldn’t be allowed on health department property. Navigators will help uninsured people sign up for subsidized health coverage on an online marketplace, set to open Oct. 1.

The order from C. Meade Grigg, deputy DOH secretary for statewide services, banning Navigators from health department property went out late Monday to the 60 local health department directors around the state. He said the policy was developed after some had asked the Department of Health for permission to operate within state facilities, presumably because uninsured people often seek treatment there.

Grigg’s note said the policy is consistent with requests from other groups in the past, which he did not name. The order makes an exception for federally qualified health centers that are operating within local health departments; 41 such clinics in Florida received $8.1 million in federal grants specifically to help uninsured patients enroll in a health plan.

Grigg’s decision was frustrating to some in Pinellas, where the county and local health department recently won a $600,000 federal grant to hire and train the enrollment workers.

The work-around agreement reached Thursday between the state and county came because the county owns the buildings in which the local health staff work.

So the Navigators can work in another office in the same buildings, said Maggie Hall, spokeswoman for the local health department.

“It’s a compromise,” she said.

The compromise reduces tension between Affordable Care Act opponents, including many top officials in Florida’s state government, and those in the public health sector who want to see as many of Florida’s uninsured as possible find access to health care.

It was unclear Thursday whether the compromise could apply to any other counties outside Pinellas.

Health News Florida is a health journalism project of WUSF Public Media.

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