HNF Stories

HNF Stories
6:15 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Florida Leads in ACA Enrollment, See Why

Florida continues to lead every other state using the federal marketplace health insurance marketplace, with just over 1.3 million who were enrolled or were automatically re-enrolled in a health plan as of Jan. 23.

The high numbers are due to high demand, federal health officials say.

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HNF Stories
9:01 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Sheriff Explains Medical Pot Bill Support

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

The latest push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is getting support from law enforcement.

Back in November, voters defeated Amendment 2, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, now wants to run the idea by Florida's legislature.

One supporter of this legislative approach is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who tells WUSF News that  while he opposed Amendment 2,  there's more to like in SB 528.

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HNF Stories
8:30 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Scott's Budget Includes Iffy Fed Money

Gov. Rick Scott
Credit Florida Office of the Governor

Despite uncertainty about whether the federal government will agree to continue the program, Gov. Rick Scott's proposed 2015-16 budget includes funding for a program that many hospitals say is crucial to caring for poor and uninsured patients.

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HNF Stories
8:05 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Billions Of Dollars At Stake In Medicaid Expansion Choice

TO EXPAND OR NOT Florida and the individual counties would suffer or prosper, according to the decision. For Florida, the difference between the two is $7 billion.

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 8:00 am

State health policy experts said Thursday prospects for expanding Medicaid in the Legislature this year remain dim because of unwillingness in the leadership and possibly fatal flaws in the two leading proposals. And those experts warn another refusal could come with a stunning economic cost for Florida.

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3:18 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

State Wants 3 New Nursing Homes for Aging Veteran Population

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 8:41 am

The governor wants to build three new, state-run nursing homes just for veterans.

Florida already operates six veterans’ homes with a total of 720 beds, but there are 700,000 veterans over the age of 65 in the state.

The Florida Cabinet already approved one of the new facilities for St. Lucie County. But Gov. Scott added two more to his legislative wish list.

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HNF Stories
2:56 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

House, Senate Remain Divided On Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 7:36 pm

The Senate says it would consider expanding Florida's Medicaid program to nearly a million more low-income Floridians. The House is continuing to say no.

The federal government’s deal with Indiana to expand that state’s Medicaid program could boost the prospect of expansion in Florida. Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program includes co-pays and premiums for low-income people—something popular among republicans.  Senate President Andy Gardiner says Indiana has caught his chamber’s attention.

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HNF Stories
8:49 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Study: Drug Costs Point to Discrimination

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Insurance companies, perhaps more than previously thought, may be charging the sickest patients extra for drugs under the federal health law, in an effort to discourage them from choosing certain plans, according to a study released Wednesday.

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8:34 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Speaker: 'No Plans' To Expand Medicaid

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli
Credit Mark Foley / Florida House of Representatives

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Wednesday said his chamber has "no plans" to expand Medicaid coverage to an additional 800,000 residents during the upcoming legislative session.

"We do not plan to do anything on Medicaid expansion," Crisafulli told reporters and editors at the annual Associated Press Legislative Planning Day at the Capitol. "I am a never-say-never kind of guy, and certainly anything can come about that provides opportunity, but at this time we do not plan to hear Medicaid expansion."

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HNF Stories
8:20 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Tampa-Area Hospitals Face $151M Cut

Credit Tampa General Hospital

Hillsborough County hospitals are scheduled to lose more than $151 million a year in funds for care of the uninsured beginning June 30, according to a report released Thursday.

The scheduled changes to two revenue streams “represent a tremendous loss of federal funding to the county and pose a significant risk,” warns the report by the Community Justice Project, part of Florida Legal Services.

Statewide, the coming annual loss will be $2.1 billion, estimates co-author Charlotte Cassel.

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HNF Stories
12:33 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Free Clinics Beat Insurance, for Some

Gary Babcock of Clearwater
Carol Gentry Health News Florida

With open enrollment for health insurance ending in just two weeks, the push is on to get everyone who qualifies signed up. But some of the uninsured are balking, and it’s not only the so-called “young invincibles” who think they don’t need it.

Gary Babcock of Clearwater, for example, is neither young nor invincible.  He’s 55, with diabetes so severe he has to give himself daily insulin shots.

Remove

At his income level, he could choose from several Affordable Care Act plans with no premium, fully subsidized.

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HNF Stories
12:29 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Businesses Driving Expansion Push

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signed an open letter to the Legislature, advocating for a Medicaid expansion alternative.
Brian Blanco

Florida's Legislature has twice turned down proposals to provide health insurance for nearly 1 million state residents.  And the new House Speaker on Wednesday said he had “no plans” to expand Medicaid for the people caught in the so-called coverage gap.

But still state business leaders – and some mayors – continue to rally and aim to take another swing at it when the Legislature convenes March 3.

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HNF Stories
9:34 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Floridians Picking Plans with Financial Help

Federal health officials say most Floridians who have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act chose a plan that comes with financial assistance.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that 93 percent of Floridians selected a plan with financial assistance.

As of mid-January, some 1.2 million Florida residents had signed up or were automatically re-enrolled for coverage.

Nationwide, that figure is 9.5 million consumers.

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HNF Stories
9:32 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Senate Bill Targets Troubled Prison System

With Florida's corrections system under scrutiny because of inmate deaths and alleged misconduct, a Senate committee next week will take up a wide-ranging bill aimed at improving prison safety and addressing issues such as the use of force by guards.

The 29-page bill is slated to go Monday to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which heard testimony last week from newly appointed Corrections Secretary Julie Jones. During that testimony, Jones pointed to problems including understaffed prisons and a lack of training for guards who deal with mentally ill inmates.

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HNF Stories
9:29 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Could Indiana Medicaid Expansion Tempt FL?

 The deal reached Tuesday between the Obama administration and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to expand Medicaid under the president’s health law should help sway reluctant Republican officials in other states because it imposes new costs on poor adults, promotes healthy behaviors and relies on financing from smokers and hospitals instead of state taxpayers, health experts say.

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HNF Stories
9:25 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott Announces Budget Plan For Florida Panthers, Everglades

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 8:49 am

Governor Rick Scott spoke to reporters with a caged Florida panther present Tuesday at Gator Park in Miami. He announced that $150 million will go toward Everglades restoration this year and $5 billion throughout the next 20 years. Part of the plan he announced funds projects to protect panthers-- 2014 was a bad year for panther deaths. The other part is to move, clean and store Florida’s water supply.

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HNF Stories
9:23 am
Wed January 28, 2015

Miami-Dade County Trying To Count Homeless Children

Miami-Dade County's iCount hopes to identify the number of homeless kids living within it's boarders.

Originally published on Thu January 29, 2015 7:09 am

By the end of January, all four South Florida counties will have conducted their yearly homeless counts as required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The numbers help local homeless initiatives figure out where to put their resources and if there have been any major shifts in the demographics of its homeless population.

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HNF Stories
9:15 am
Wed January 28, 2015

CFO Atwater Not Ready to Replace Insurance Commissioner

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 10:21 pm

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater isn't ready to discuss a Louisiana official tabbed by Gov. Rick Scott as a possible replacement for Florida's longtime insurance commissioner.

Atwater's office reiterated Tuesday that he wants Cabinet members to clearly establish a new process to replace Cabinet-level appointees before discussing a potential move by Scott to replace leaders at the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Office of Financial Regulation and the Department of Revenue.

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HNF Stories
8:50 am
Tue January 27, 2015

More Than 600 New Foster Homes Licensed

Mike Carroll, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families
Credit Department of Children and Families

State child welfare officials have recruited more than 600 news foster homes.

 The increase comes after lawmakers passed a measure in 2013 aimed at improving the quality of people recruited to become foster parents and help retaining them. The program also works to improve child safety and permanency for foster children.

Approximately 10,000 children are in foster placements throughout the state.

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HNF Stories
8:31 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Ex-NFL Players Drop Pounds, Boost Health

Former NFL Players (from left) Rob Taylor, Brian Holloway, James Harrell, and Jason Maniecki pose with Dr. Jon Paul Gonzalvo
Tampa General Hospital & USF Health Bariatric Center

Many people struggle with their weight, and former athletes are no exception.

But athletes who gain weight once they retire are at a higher risk for serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. That's why four retired NFL players, including two from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, teamed up as part of a weight loss study by Tampa General Hospital and the USF Health Bariatric Center to tackle their obesity.

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HNF Stories
7:25 am
Tue January 27, 2015

42 Years Later Abortion Fight Rages On

Barbara Devane addressing a Roe v. Wade rally on the Capitol steps.

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 5:27 pm

Some say time heals all wounds.  But this week saw the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and all these years later, the ideological canyon separating opponents in the fight over abortion seems just as impossible to bridge.   

In the US House of Representatives Thursday, the temptation to use Roe v. Wade’s anniversary as a chance to vote on anti-abortion legislation was simply to great to pass up.  But it was the legislation they didn’t vote on that made the nightly news.

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HNF Stories
7:24 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Increasing The Odds For Cancer Cure

Florida Lottery

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 3:32 pm

For years, investing in cancer research has been a frustrating game of chance. Now a legislator wants to create a new lottery game to increase the odds.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat from Orlando, is sponsoring legislation that would add a new scratch off game called “Ticket for Cure.” Sales would support breast cancer research at Florida universities.

That’s welcome news to the executive director of the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, Russell Silverman.

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1:28 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

GOP Lawmaker Files Medical Marijuana Bill

Credit AP

There's a new push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, and a Republican lawmaker is leading the charge.

Though a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana failed in November, Republican lawmaker state Sen. Jeff Brandes has filed a bill to make medical marijuana legal for Florida residents.

"Amendment Two really was kind of a take-it-or-leave-it offer," said Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. 

Brandes filed SB 528 Monday afternoon.

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10:38 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Scott Wants $7.4 M for Vet Nursing Homes

Credit Associated Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants money to start planning to build the state's eighth and ninth nursing homes for veterans.

Scott will announce Monday that he is asking for $7.4 million from state legislators. Scott wants the money to help build a recently-approved home in St. Lucie County as well as two additional homes.

Groundbreaking on the nursing home in St. Lucie County is scheduled to begin later this year. No sites have been chosen for the next two.

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8:55 am
Mon January 26, 2015

GMO Mosquitoes May Be Set Loose in Keys

Credit Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons

Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases.

Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood.

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow the experiment.

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8:39 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Court: Cruise Malpractice Ruling Stands

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a decision that opens the door for cruise ship passengers to sue for medical malpractice.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week rejected a bid by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to revisit the ruling. The court noted that none of the 11th Circuit judges voted in support of reconsideration.

Royal Caribbean could still appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. A company spokesman said legal options are under review.

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8:35 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Health First Lawsuit Set for Summer Trial

Credit Health First

A massive anti-trust lawsuit against Brevard County's Health First hospital system could go to trial as soon as this summer, on charges it has a ‘vertical monopoly’ on health care.

Health First officials weren’t available to discuss the lawsuit Friday, but the hospital will likely lay out its defense in court filings in the next 30 days. After that, both sides produce evidence. And in July, a possible jury trial.

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7:27 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Feds To Florida: We're Willing To Talk About Medicaid Expansion

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 10:34 am

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says her agency is open to negotiating with states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs to more people.

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8:56 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Health First Anti-Trust Case Continues

An anti-trust lawsuit that claims Brevard County’s biggest hospital system has a monopoly cleared its first court hurdle.

U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton’s decision allows Omni Healthcare, a Brevard County physician practice, to continue its lawsuit against Health First.

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HNF Stories
8:23 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Could Florida’s New DOC Head Be Backing Away From Certain Earlier Candid Remarks?

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 9:19 am

Prison privatization has been a contentious issue in Florida—even costing one Florida Department of Corrections’ Secretary his job. But, after the latest DOC head made some candid remarks on the topic, could she now be backtracking?

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8:20 am
Fri January 23, 2015

House Rules Committee Chair: Smooth Sailing For Low-THC Marijuana

Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville)

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:56 pm

The House committee overseeing Florida’s rules and regulations will likely have to give their blessing before a low-THC marijuana framework can be put in place.  But some lawmakers don’t think it will be a stumbling block.

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