HNF Stories

HNF Stories
8:46 am
Tue September 2, 2014

$800M Fraud Gets Chief 20 Years in Prison

The man who masterminded an $800 million insurance scam that fleeced tens of thousands of investors in one of Florida's all-time largest fraud schemes was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola gave Joel Steinger, 64, credit for pleading guilty to avoid a lengthy and costly trial and said Steinger's multiple medical problems — he appeared in court in a wheelchair, with an oxygen tank — argued against the maximum 50-year sentence sought by prosecutors.

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HNF Stories
8:35 am
Tue September 2, 2014

States Help Pay ACA Tax On Insurers

Credit Kaiser Health News

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it required health insurers, hospitals, device makers and pharmaceutical companies to share in the cost because they would get a windfall of new, paying customers.

But with an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 -- the first time the new tax is being collected -- the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: taxpayers.

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HNF Stories
9:27 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Medicare Fraud Snags Agency Owner

The co-owner of a Miami home health agency was sentenced to 70 months in prison for fraudulently providing therapy to Medicare recipients.

Between 2008 and 2014, Annarella Garcia’s Professional Medical Home Health received approximately $6.25 million in fraudulent Medicare claims, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

HNF Stories
3:13 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Doctors Critical to Human Trafficking Fight

From left to right: WUSF's Carson Cooper, Dr. Maulik K. Trivedi, Connie Rose and Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Credit Mary Shedden

Florida Matters this week took a deeper look at human trafficking, including the role physicians in the state play in identifying those at risk, and treating those who have been victimized.

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HNF Stories
10:06 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Sheldon Wins Democratic Primary for Florida AG

George Sheldon, a one-time top official in the Obama administration, easily defeated state Rep. Perry Thurston on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

Sheldon moves on to the November ballot, where he will challenge Republican incumbent Pam Bondi and Libertarian candidate Bill Wohlsifer. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Sheldon led Thurston 61 percent to 39 percent.

During a victory speech to supporters, Sheldon vowed during the next two months to draw a contrast between himself and Bondi on issues such as medical marijuana and same sex marriage.

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HNF Stories
9:20 am
Wed August 27, 2014

As The Florida Panther Rebounds, Ranchers Face Increasing Cattle Loss

A male Florida Panther at a refuge in Southwest Florida.

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 2:51 pm

The endangered Florida Panther is experiencing a slight population rebound.

While this is good news for recovery efforts, it’s becoming a problem for ranchers in Southwest Florida. That’s because panthers are killing off livestock such as cattle in large numbers, and ranchers are taking a financial hit.

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HNF Stories
1:23 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Florida Matters Preview: Human Trafficking

Panel (R-L) Attorney General Pam Bondi; Connie Rose; Dr. Maulik K. Trivedi; and WUSF's Carson Cooper.

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 7:45 am

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Florida is third in the number of calls to the national human trafficking hotline.

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HNF Stories
8:29 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Obamacare Sign-Ups to Rise 23%?

Jack McDermott, Director of Life & Health Products Review, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
Credit FL Office of Insurance Regulation

The number of Floridians enrolled in individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act in June was 866,485, according to new state data compiled from insurers’ reports. The carriers expect enrollment to rise to 1.1 million next year, an increase of 23 percent.

The Office of Insurance Regulation is scheduled to present that and other information on the state's Affordable Care Act implementation Tuesday to the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board. Made up mostly of industry representatives, it was created to advise state agencies.

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HNF Stories
9:20 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Physicians United Members Face Deadline

Sunday is the final day seniors covered by a now-defunct Medicare Advantage plan can select a different policy.

The state’s Department of Financial Services took over operation of the Physician’s United Plan in early June, when it was more than $13 million in debt and unable to pay many creditors.

  

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HNF Stories
8:29 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Obamacare Still 'Red Meat' for GOP

Tuesday's vote will determine party candidates in many Congressional primaries.

Beverly Hires, a former nurse running for Congress in Jupiter, one of the nation’s rare competitive House races, ticks off her problems with the federal health care law: higher premiums, cancelled policies and employers cutting full-time jobs.

“The Affordable Care Act is not making insurance more affordable,” the South Florida congressional candidate said, citing many of the same criticisms as her five GOP opponents in Tuesday’s primary, who are vying for the chance to oust first-term Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy.

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HNF Stories
1:34 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Sexting Doctor Agrees to Suspension

Dr. Tuan Dean
Credit TriCounty Physicians LLC website

A Central Florida doctor who sent sexually explicit photos and videos to a patient has settled disciplinary charges against him by agreeing to a temporary suspension and a permanent restriction on his practice.

Dr.  Tuan Dean, a family practitioner in The Villages, agreed to see only male patients when he returns from suspension, according to documents posted at the Florida Department of Health website. The Florida Board of Medicine earlier this month asked DOH to seek the suspension and permanent restriction through a formal hearing if Dean had not signed the agreement.

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HNF Stories
7:31 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Moms Rally to Legalize Medical Marijuana - For Their Kids

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 8:57 pm

In June, the state legislature legalized an oil form marijuana called Charlotte’s Web for medicinal use.

It doesn’t have a lot of THC - the substance that gets a user “high,” but it is supposed to have certain medicinal benefits.

A new organization of moms, though, say that’s not enough. They are rallying to get Amendment 2 passed in November. It would legalize a broader spectrum of medicinal marijuana.

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HNF Stories
7:30 am
Fri August 22, 2014

FDA Panel Says No; Docs Say Yes

Dr. Ronald Wheeler
YouTube.com

Sarasota urologist  Ronald Wheeler says he's going to continue doing a controversial prostate-cancer treatment, even though an FDA panel recently voted against it and even though the state could punish him for it.

Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the French device that Wheeler uses for high-intensity focused ultrasound, called HIFU, he has been treating his patients in Mexico.

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HNF Stories
1:10 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

A Third With Medicaid Chose Own Plan

Only about one-third of Florida’s Medicaid recipients transitioning into managed care statewide chose their own health insurance plans.

Enrollment for the general population started in May and ended in August. Consumers received a letter in the mail two months before enrollment and were given at least 30 days to choose an insurance plan. Those who did not choose a plan were automatically enrolled into a plan by state health officials.

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HNF Stories
8:52 am
Thu August 21, 2014

USF Student, Palestinians Share the Healing Power of Dance

Dancers from Sareyyet Ramallah perform "Barriers," a piece that highlights the differences
Dwight Scheuneman

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 3:24 pm

University Beat report on USF St. Petersburg student Dwayne Scheuneman's visit to the West Bank to teach dance to disabled and able-bodied Palestinian teachers and students.

In times of strife, people try to find comfort any way they can—and sometimes, it's in art.

The power of dance was on display for a group of Palestinians in the West Bank recently, and they had a University of South Florida St. Petersburg student to thank for that.

Dwayne Scheuneman, 45, is a senior studying education. The retired U.S. Navy veteran was left a paraplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury in a diving accident almost two decades ago.


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HNF Stories
8:46 am
Thu August 21, 2014

SeaWorld Won't Appeal Ban On Trainers Performing With Orcas

Killer whales perform in Shamu Stadium at the SeaWorld Orlando theme park in Florida. SeaWorld says it will not appeal a citation that prohibits trainers from performing with the whales.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 7:23 am

SeaWorld has decided not to appeal a court ruling that prohibits its trainers from performing with killer whales, the Orlando Sentinel reports, citing a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The legal battle has lasted for years, beginning with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau by an orca named Tilikum in 2010.

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HNF Stories
7:47 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Coasters Thrill, Drill the Body

Guests at Busch Gardens Tampa can experience rides such as Cheetah Hunt without having to get on the ride.
Mary Shedden/WUSF

Just hearing the CLICK, CLICK, CLICK of a roller coaster car making its ascent makes some of us on the ground break into a cold, cold, cold sweat.

The heart's racing. And you're queasy. Very, very queasy.

But what exactly is happening inside those bodies brave enough to be strapped into massive body harnesses so they can head up, up, up… and very far down in three minutes or less?

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HNF Stories
8:07 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Bondi Hopes To Build On Past Efforts With Newly-Formed Human Trafficking Council

Attorney General Pam Bondi during the first meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking Monday. She's holding up the panel's new logo.

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 7:38 pm

Attorney General Pam Bondi hopes to build on past anti-trafficking efforts with her new Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. She led the panel’s first meeting Monday in Tallahassee.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Florida is ranked third in the nation for the number of calls received by the center’s human trafficking hotline.

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Associated Press
8:05 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Scientists, Gov. Scott Talk Climate Change

Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton gives a presentation to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on climate change Tuesday in Tallahassee.
Credit AP

 

Five scientists who met with Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday are convinced that climate change is real, but what they are less sure about is whether the governor believes them.

The scientists had 30 minutes to make a presentation in Scott's office and the first seven minutes were taken up by small talk.

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HNF Stories
8:02 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Group says Florida's Major Wastewater Violators Go Unpunished

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 2:53 pm

A recent report from a watchdog group monitoring the state’s environmental regulators found Florida’s major wastewater dischargers-- including three in Southwest Florida-- are violating clean water laws with little enforcement from state officials.

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HNF Stories
8:33 am
Tue August 19, 2014

200,000 Floridians Can Still Get Insured

More than 200,000 Floridians may be eligible to sign up for health insurance under President Obama's Affordable Care Act soon even though enrollment doesn't officially start until November.

Consumers that get married, move, give birth or gain citizenship may qualify for a special enrollment period. They may also qualify if they became unemployed or got a divorce. Enroll America, an ACA advocacy group, released a report Tuesday showing 222,700 Floridians may be eligible to for special enrollment.

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HNF Stories
7:50 am
Tue August 19, 2014

15 FL Scientists Named 'Most Influential'

Roy Baumeister, Ph.D, FSU psychologist
Credit YouTube.com

A list of "cutting-edge" scientists who have the most influence on their fields -- using citations by other scholars as the yardstick -- includes 15 researchers based in Florida.

While most are known only in their field of study, a handful have made news. One even co-authored a bestseller.

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HNF Stories
3:25 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Data Breach Hits Hospital Chain

Bayfront Health Hospital of Spring Hill
Credit Bayfront Health

Community Health Systems, which operates 24 hospitals in Florida, said a cyber attack took information on more than 4 million patients from its computer network earlier this year.

The Franklin, Tennessee, company said Monday that no medical or credit card records were taken in the attack, which may have happened in April and June. But Community said the attack did bypass its security systems to take patient names, addresses, birth dates, and phone and Social Security numbers.

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HNF Stories
9:22 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Report: FL Losing Most ACA Medicaid Money

Florida looks to lose more federal money set aside for Medicaid than any state that has opted out of expanding the health care program for the poor, says a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

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HNF Stories
8:04 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Warden Details Prison Problems, Upgrades

New Dade Correctional Institution warden Les Odom has announced a variety of upgrades to overhaul the state prison and correct lapses in proper management.

The Miami Herald reported some of the improvements have already begun and others have been scheduled. Those include replacing the air conditioning in the area housing mentally ill inmates.

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HNF Stories
7:37 am
Fri August 15, 2014

WellCare Names Future CFO

Credit Tampa Tribune

Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, Inc. has named Andrew “Drew” Asher as senior vice president, and anticipates he will become Chief Financial Officer in November.

Since 2013, Asher has been CFO of Aetna's Local and Regional Businesses, WellCare said in a statement. Prior to that, Asher also spent 15 years with Coventry Health Care, which was acquired by Aetna, serving as its senior vice president of corporate finance.

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HNF Stories
8:18 am
Thu August 14, 2014

North Florida Communities Struggle To Address Mental Health Needs

Bay County Jail Warden Rick Anglin

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 7:19 pm

The Bay County Jail is experiencing a mental health crisis, leaving resources stretched thin and funds low.  The Bay County Sheriffs office is asking the county for an extra $430,000 to hire nine additional officers, but the mental health crisis in Bay County is not an isolated problem.

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HNF Stories
4:50 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Gun Questions: Free Speech or Intrusion?

A federal appeals court recently upheld a Florida law that limits what doctors can tell their patients about gun ownership.

Doctors claim that it’s their First Amendment right to ask any question they want of their patients including questions about guns. The backers of this law say keeping records on whether they have guns in their homes violates their Second Amendment rights.

WUSF's Craig Kopp spoke with a Jacksonville pediatrician and a firearms expert about whether doctors should talk to patients about guns.

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HNF Stories
10:40 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Sex Talk Didn't Help HPV Vaccine

Dr. Anne Schuchat, left, stands next to a poster promoting HPV vaccination. The poster and other education materials were created by USF Public Health graduate students.
Mary Shedden/WUSF

Florida lags behind the rest of the country in vaccinating children for the human papillomavirus. 

Part of the problem started eight years ago, when the HPV vaccine was introduced as a way to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that researchers knew was a major cause of cervical cancer and other disease.

But the shots are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old children. And talking about a vaccine tied to sexual activity made some parents and pediatricians squirm.

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HNF Stories
4:58 am
Tue August 12, 2014

'Predatory' Doctor Prevails in Hearing

David Simon, D.O.

A Lake Worth family doctor accused of beating, choking and locking up a patient during a year-long sexual relationship should be allowed to continue practicing, a state hearing officer says. 

Dr. David Simon should not lose his license over the affair, Administrative Law Judge John G. Van Laningham in Tallahassee wrote late last month.  While Simon should not have engaged in sex with a patient – Florida law prohibits that under any circumstances – he has not been in trouble before and deserves probation, Van Laningham wrote.

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