HNF Stories

HNF Stories
3:44 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

Speaker: LIP Offer Will Help End Impasse

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island
Credit Florida Legislature

A day after receiving word that Florida likely will receive about $1 billion next year for a key health-care program, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said Friday that the information could help end a state budget impasse.

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, sent a letter to the state Thursday indicating Florida could expect to receive about $1 billion during the upcoming fiscal year for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program.

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9:41 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Newly Signed Gun Evacuation Bill Now Florida Law

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 5:17 pm

It’s now legal for people to carry a gun without a concealed permit during a declared state of emergency. That’s among more than 40 bills Governor Scott signed into law Thursday.

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9:40 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Court: Med Mal Caps Not Retroactive

A 2003 law capping medical malpractice lawsuit awards at $500,000 can't be applied retroactively. That's what the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a Miami-Dade County case in which a woman suffered permanent damage to her leg from unnecessary surgery. A jury awarded Kimberly Ann Miles $1.5 million, but Dr. Daniel Weingrad appealed the case saying the award should be limited to the $500,000 cap then-Gov.

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9:11 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Fed LIP Offer Aims to Solve FL Budget Mess

Gov. Rick Scott
Credit Florida Office of the Governor

The Obama administration offered Thursday to extend Florida's hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year — a deal that might help fill a $1 billion state budget hole and resolve a legislative stalemate.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

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Breaking
11:11 am
Thu May 21, 2015

FL Could Get Low Income Pool Funds

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a letter dated May 21 that Florida can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for the Low Income Pool.

The Obama administration has made an offer that it hopes will resolve Florida’s $1 billion state budget stalemate over health care funds for poor people.

Federal health officials agreed to extend Florida’s hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year. That means Florida lawmakers may have to dip into the state budget to fill the gap or state hospitals will get less money in the coming year.

In a letter Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott, federal officials stressed that they would not use Low Income Pool hospital funds to cover anyone who could be covered by Medicaid expansion, but they also acknowledged the loss of those funds may be difficult for the state. The current hospital funds are $2.1 billion dollars, put up by the state and federal government. The administration’s preliminary offer drops that to $1 billion for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and to $600 million the following year.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

“The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a state option … (R)egardless of whether a state expands Medicaid, uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in Medicaid expansion,” federal health officials said in the letter.

The funds, which are part of a federal program that covers the hospital bills of uninsured and Medicaid patients, were supposed to end this year as President Barack Obama’s health care program grew. Patients covered by the low-income pool were supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the Florida House and Scott have balked at expanding it.

The bitter standoff between the Republican governor and the Obama administration tore apart the state legislative session, with the House abruptly adjourning three days early last month. Scott sued the Obama administration, comparing federal officials to the TV mobster show “The Sopranos” and accusing them of withholding the hospital funds because the state wouldn’t expand Medicaid.

The dispute created a $1 billion hole in the governor’s budget that should now be much easier for lawmakers to address when they return for a special session June 1.

Scott pressed for the extension for months, even visiting Washington twice and blaming the Obama administration for ruining his budget and ignoring his timeline even though he’s known for more than a year that the funds were ending. He waited until mid-April to submit a proposal, although the months-long required public comment period made it impossible to get an answer before the Legislature adjourned last month.

The Obama administration and hospitals want the governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians and will not spend federal hospital funds on those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. That’s because federal health officials say it’s more efficient to use the money to give people health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

But Scott and Republican House leaders refuse to accept any money tied to the Affordable Care Act - including Medicaid expansion. They even snubbed a Senate proposal that would eventually take billions of federal dollars and allow the Medicaid expansion recipients to buy private health insurance - a solution that Scott has fought for in the past.

The House and Senate recently announced they would discuss Medicaid expansion during the special session, snubbing the governor’s call to focus only on the budget.

Senate leaders had prepared to move ahead with a health care coverage plan during the upcoming special session, but the announcement from the federal government bolsters the argument of House Republicans who maintained that the state would continue to receive a decent chunk of the hospital money without having to expand Medicaid.

During a recent closed-door session, House and Senate budget chiefs discussed the House’s objections to the Senate’s current proposal. Senate budget chief Tom Lee agreed there were “reasonable” concerns raised about the Senate plan.

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HNF Stories
8:37 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Feds Investigating FL Prisoner's Death

Darren Rainey died while an inmate at the Dade Correctional Institute.
Credit Florida Department of Corrections

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the death in a scalding shower of a Florida prisoner and may conduct a broader civil rights probe into allegations of abuse of mentally ill inmates.

Existence of the criminal investigation into the 2012 death of Darren Rainey, 50, was confirmed in a recent Justice Department letter to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which last year requested the probe.

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HNF Stories
8:33 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Hospital Commission Echoes Scott's Agenda

Gov. Rick Scott's hospital commission held its first meeting Wednesday, overwhelmed by mounds of data but intent on determining whether hospitals that receive tax money are being managed efficiently.

"What are we paying for and what's the result of what we're paying for? Do patients have access, is it quality care and is it affordable?" said Dr. Jason Rosenburg.

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HNF Stories
8:02 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Months-Long Circumcision Battle Coming To Close

Heather Hironimus went into hiding with her son and is reportedly being held on charges of interfering with custody.

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 8:05 am

Heather Hironimus has filed suit, gone into hiding and, ultimately, wound up in jail trying to stop her 4-and-a-half-year-old son's circumcision. The Sun Sentinel reports the South Florida mother dropped her federal lawsuit Wednesday.

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HNF Stories
12:30 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Punishment for Fatal Error a Tough Call

Justin Solnay with family poodle
Courtesy of Solnay Family

  Two years ago, a little boy with a leaky heart valve was rolled into the operating room at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  Before starting surgery, as required, the team took a “Time Out.”

Doctors and nurses made sure they had the correct patient on the table – Justin Solnay, age 11 – and were planning the right procedure – replacing Justin’s weak aortic valve with a mechanical implant. They ran through the list; check, check and check.

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HNF Stories
9:17 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Scott's Hospital Commission to Meet

Gov. Rick Scott's hospital commission will meet for the first time today.
Credit WMFE

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s commission investigating hospital finances will meet for the first time today. The meetings come as Florida’s legislature preps for a special session.

Health care spending has been the big division in Florida’s budget thanks to a billion-dollar hospital fund that’s ending. Federal officials want Florida to expand Medicaid to cover Florida’s uninsured, and hospitals have been pushing for expansions.

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HNF Stories
8:48 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Hospital Commission Set for First Meeting

Gov. Rick Scott
Credit Florida Office of the Governor

Gov. Rick Scott’s new hospital commission consists of Republican donors and business leaders who will likely help him go after some of the state’s hospitals as the standoff over Medicaid expansion intensifies.

The panel, which will meet for the first time today, is beginning its work as the governor has become increasingly antagonistic toward hospitals that receive taxpayer funds in the face of a $1 billion hole in his budget.

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HNF Stories
8:45 am
Wed May 20, 2015

College Sued for Vaginal Ultrasound Recruitment

Two students allege they were "browbeat" to volunteer for transvaginal ultrasounds as part of Valencia's program.
Credit WMFE

Two Valencia College students in Orlando have filed a lawsuit alleging students were "browbeat" into having pelvic ultrasounds performed on them.

Valencia College hasn’t been served the lawsuit, filed late last week, but defended its use of student volunteers.

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HNF Stories
9:02 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Volusia Mental Health Agency Closing

Windward Behavioral Care has treated the mentally ill, homeless, and substance abusers in Volusia County since the 1970s.
Credit Windward Behavioral Care. WMFE

The agency that treats the most uninsured mental health patients in Volusia County every year is closing.

Windward Behavioral Center in Daytona Beach  lost half a million dollars in state funds in March, and its staff has dwindled from more than one hundred to less than twenty employees.

The agency started closing its three facilities in March after a state audit noted staff failed to correctly document services. The facilities have served homeless veterans, addicts, and the mentally ill for more than thirty years.

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HNF Stories
9:00 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Seminole College Planning Wellness Center

Seminole State College’s new Wellness Center got its first round of approvals today.

The board approved a partnership project between the college, Orlando Health, the YMCA and Walgreens. The building will cost 10-million dollars, and will open in January of 2017.

Jay Davis, a spokesman for the school, said The Keith Corporation’s proposal will be full negotiated now. Check here to look at those documents.

HNF Stories
8:47 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Orange Co. Offers Free Hepatitis Screenings

Orange County is offering free Hepaitis screenings today.
Credit WMFE

The Florida Department of Health is offering free screenings for Hepatitis today as part of hepatitis awareness month. The testing comes as hepatitis rates rise in Central Florida.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Hepatitis C a silent epidemic. It often has few symptoms while damaging the liver.

And Hepatitis C is on the rise: Baby boomers are 75 percent of Hep C cases. That’s because blood products weren’t screened for Hepatitis C before 1992, and many were likely infected when the disease was at its height during the 70s and 80s.

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HNF Stories
8:43 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Warnings for FL Government Shutdown

Credit State of Florida

State officials warned on Monday that if Florida legislators fail to reach a deal on a new state budget, everything from child abuse investigations to money for teachers could be halted in coming weeks.

Gov. Rick Scott last week ordered agencies to give him a list of the state's critical needs if a new budget is not in place by the end of June. Some agencies responded with a list of what needs to be funded, while others said what would happen without a spending plan.

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HNF Stories
8:35 am
Tue May 19, 2015

13% Of FL Foster Kids In Group Homes

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A new study shows that 13 percent of Florida's 18,000 foster youth are living in group homes instead of with a family.

A national report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed 57,000 of the 400,000 foster children in the U.S. live in group placements. Colorado had the highest number at 35 percent.

These placements have been shown to be harmful to a child's opportunities to develop strong, nurturing attachments. Those who grow up in group placements are also at greater risk of being abused and being arrested.

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HNF Stories
8:31 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Fed. Judge Questions Circumcision Case

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

A judge expressed skepticism Monday that a long-running court battle over a Florida boy’s circumcision amounted to a constitutional issue worthy of being argued in federal court after being exhaustively litigated in state courts.

In the first hearing on the issue in federal court, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra questioned the attorney for the boy’s mother, Heather Hironimus, over the legality of proceeding with the case when a state judge had already ruled.

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8:06 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Hospitals Push Back On Revenue Sharing

Gov. Rick Scott
Credit Associated Press

Florida hospitals fired back Monday against Gov. Rick Scott in the latest salvo over the governor's suggestion that the health-care facilities mimic professional baseball teams in sharing revenues.

The Florida Hospital Association sent a letter to Scott objecting to the governor's money-sharing proposal, which the group labeled a new "tax," to help cover the costs of the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program, set to expire on June 30 unless state and federal negotiators come up with a new plan.

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HNF Stories
8:52 am
Mon May 18, 2015

FL Circumcision Battle Enters Federal Court

In January, protesters in Boynton Beach spoke out in the case involving the 4-year-old boy.
Credit Matt Sedensky/AP

The case of a Florida woman who fled to avoid her son's circumcision is entering a federal courtroom for the first time.

Thirty-one-year-old Heather Hironimus was arrested Thursday in the long-running dispute over the removal of her 4-year-old child's foreskin.

She went missing with the boy nearly three months ago and ignored a judge's warnings that if she didn't appear in court and give consent for the circumcision to proceed, she faced jail.

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HNF Stories
8:49 am
Mon May 18, 2015

New Session to Tackle Budget, Health Care

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon
Credit Florida Senate

Florida’s top legislative leaders on Friday made their June special session official and came up with a long list of items they want to try to tackle during their 20-day return to the state Capitol.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner have agreed to pass a new state budget while at the same time debate legislation covering health care, Medicaid and even tax cuts and environmental policy.

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HNF Stories
8:45 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Universities Look at Health Care Job Gaps

Florida needs more specialized nurses because more than half leave the state.
Credit WMFE

Health care’s a growing industry. But not all health care jobs are created equal.

The board that oversees Florida’s universities on Monday will look at whether Florida graduates enough health care workers to meet demand and it could lead to new programs. 

The Florida Board of Governor's report looks at the statewide number of graduates in a field, compared to the projected number of new jobs.

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HNF Stories
8:02 am
Mon May 18, 2015

Hospitals Hesitant to Give Commission Data

Credit Phallin Ooi / Albumarium

Gov. Rick Scott, who last week asked the state's hospitals to provide a large amount of financial data by Monday, will not get all that he asked for that quickly. He may not get some of it at all.

Hospital executives and lawyers say they want to cooperate with Scott and his newly appointed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which seeks data on services, profits, costs and patient outcomes. 

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HNF Stories
8:58 pm
Sun May 17, 2015

Even With Scott's Executive Order, Prison Reform Bills Still In The Works For 2016

Originally published on Sat May 16, 2015 7:18 pm

After recently issuing an Executive Order reforming Florida’s prisons, proponents of prison reform are weighing in on Governor Rick Scott’s order.  Still, some lawmakers say prison reform bills could still be in the works for 2016.

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HNF Stories
6:11 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

Report: High Deductibles Deter Treatment

After undergoing surgery for severe scoliosis, Susan Sexauer was left with a 21-inch incision and a 12-month recovery.

But the 52-year-old Tampa resident has delayed getting physical therapy and medications that once helped her manage her condition. She says it's because of high deductibles in her insurance plan.  

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HNF Stories
6:00 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

FL Ranks First In Nation For Boating Fatalities

A new report released by the U.S. Coast Guard says more Floridians are involved in boating accidents than anywhere else in the nation.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

A new report released by the U.S. Coast Guard says more Floridians are involved in boating accidents than anywhere else in the nation.

There were close to 700 accidents and 70 deaths on boats last year statewide.  

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HNF Stories
4:09 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

Hospitals Don't Buy Governor's Healthcare Finance Commission

Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is a private hospital, but serves as the region's safety net system.

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:38 am

Governor Rick Scott is keeping up his criticism of the federal government as the state braces for all or a partial loss of a $2 billion healthcare program. As Scott has bashed the federal government over the low-income pool, he’s also taken aim at hospitals—and is moving ahead with a workgroup to study their finances.

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HNF Stories
7:44 am
Fri May 15, 2015

FL Agency Heads Asked To Prep For Shutdown

Credit Communications Office / Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott told agency heads to prepare for the worst Thursday, asking them to list only the state’s most critical needs in the event the Legislature can’t reach an agreement on a budget that doesn’t expand health care to the poor.

Scott sent the letter to agency heads the day after lawmakers said they were making progress on a budget impasse that they’ll seek to resolve in a special session beginning June 1.

“Prepare a list of critical state services our citizens cannot lose in the event Florida is forced to shut down on July 1st,” Scott wrote.

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HNF Stories
12:35 am
Fri May 15, 2015

Monday Deadline For Hospital, Insurer Data

Credit Adrian Clark / Albumarium

Gov. Rick Scott has given hospitals and health insurers less than a week to provide a wide range of data that will be considered by a newly formed commission on health care funding.

Scott sent a letter Wednesday to hospital and insurance-company executives requesting that they submit the data by Monday.

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8:55 am
Thu May 14, 2015

Pelosi: GOP Ruin On Health Care Case

Credit U.S. House of Representatives

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Wednesday that Republicans will "rue the day" if the Supreme Court buys their arguments and invalidates tax subsidies for millions of people under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Republicans have said they will try to ensure people don't lose insurance if the high court rules this summer against tax subsidies for health care coverage in certain states. But they haven't said how they would do it.

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