An inaccurate Fox News report about Affordable Care Act (ACA) navigators in Florida was used by House Republicans to falsely claim that the Obama administration violated its promise that navigators would not visit people in their homes. But the groups cited in the Fox report, Enroll America and United Way, are not performing navigator services in Florida.
On October 2, a blog post on the Republican majority Energy & Commerce Committee website cited a Fox News report to claim that that navigator groups, which were established under the ACA to help Americans understand their new insurance plan options, were going to people's homes and that the administration promised this would not be allowed:
It has already been documented that the first day of the health care law's open enrollment was riddled with 'glitches,' disappointments, confusion, and even more delays. But the problems don't stop there. Fox News reported Tuesday that two Navigator groups in Florida went "door-to-door knocking on the homes of the uninsured, offering their help, helping them navigate through the different plans that are available." Such door-to-door outreach has previously been described as inappropriate, which is probably why a top administration official denied that such activity would occur.
Formal guidance was issued just ten days before enrollment began, and reads, "Please note that outreach activities should not include door-to-door activities to help consumers fill out applications or enroll in health coverage." Yet as yesterday's report makes clear, such activity began on day one.
The October 1 report from Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson showed volunteers from United Way and Enroll America going door-to-door in Coral Gables, Florida, to raise awareness about the ACA, but incorrectly labeled them as "healthcare navigators." During the report, Fox reporter Phil Keating said:
KEATING: The United Way and Enroll America teamed up in Coral Gables, Florida, this morning. They actually put navigators going door-to-door, knocking on the homes of the uninsured, offering their help, helping them navigate through the different plans that are available.
But the organizations mentioned in the Fox report are not navigators in Florida.
On August 15, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced an award of $67 million in grants to 105 health care navigator organizations nationwide. Enroll America is not listed among the organizations, and while some United Way groups around the country are performing navigator tasks, the organization is not listed among those awarded a grant to perform navigator services in Florida.
In an October 2 HuffPost Miami interview, Enroll America's state director for Florida, Nick Duran, explained that Enroll America does not perform navigator services, but instead refers people to navigators for further help:
It should be noted that Enroll America volunteers are not navigators; we refer to navigators. Navigators receive federal funding. Before receiving this funding, groups submit proposals for how they would like to reach into communities. Their staff has to submit themselves to 20 hours of training that includes privacy training, and they have to pass a test in order to become certified. Because of Florida statutes, they have to register with the state and be fingerprinted.
Republicans themselves distinguished between the navigator organizations and Enroll America. In letters sent to nearly half of the HHS navigator grant awardees, Republicans demanded that the navigators provide "documents provided by (or communications with)" representatives from other entities including HHS, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, and Enroll America.
Republicans have recently used other false Fox reporting to push their agenda. A highly misleading Fox News report on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was reportedly distributed to House Republicans in advance of the vote on a bill that cut nearly $40 billion from the program over 10 years. House Republican leadership highlighted the Fox report in a memo about the bill before the vote.