HNF Stories

HNF Stories
8:37 am
Fri December 19, 2014

31 FL Hospitals to See Medicare Pay Cut

In its toughest crackdown yet on medical errors, the federal government is cutting payments to 721 hospitals – including 31 in Florida -- for having high rates of infections and other patient injuries, records released Thursday show.

Medicare assessed these new penalties against some of the most renowned hospitals in the nation, including the Cleveland Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.

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HNF Stories
10:27 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Troubled Plans Top Health News in 2014

Take a look at the top health care stories in Florida in 2014, and it’s clear that the business of Medicare and Medicaid continued to dominate the news.

Good news -- and plenty of bad, too -- topped the most read stories on Health News Florida in the past year. And yes, the glitches and changes tied to new Affordable Care Act rules created plenty of buzz as well.

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HNF Stories
9:08 am
Thu December 18, 2014

FL Senate Could Reconsider Expansion

Senate President Andy Gardiner
Credit MyFloridaHouse.gov

  Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner is leaving open the possibility that his chamber will consider an expansion of health care coverage for low-income Floridians.

“Intriguing" was the word Gardiner used on Wednesday for a plan from business and hospital leaders that would accept billions of dollars under the federal Affordable Care Act and provide coverage through private insurers. The plan, called "A Healthy Florida Works," was introduced last week.

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HNF Stories
8:49 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Meningitis Arrests Include 2 Floridians

Fourteen people have been indicted over their links to a deadly meningitis outbreak – including two Central Floridians.

New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. was blamed for the 2012 outbreak that sickened 678 people and killed 64, including 25 infections and three deaths in Florida. The charges include racketeering, conspiracy and second degree murder.

Winter Park residents and pharmacy owners Carla and Doug Conigliaro are among the 14 former owners or employees of a Massachusetts pharmacy charged Wednesday by federal prosecutors in Boston.

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HNF Stories
8:35 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Court Diversion Redirects Vets

Judge Jerry Brewer is the head of Veterans Court in Orange and Osceola Counties. He poses here with Stephani Quiroz, Veterans Court case manager.
Abe Aboraya Health News Florida

George Dawson has the rough hands of a carpenter and a grizzly grey beard. He’s on his hands and knees pulling weeds out of a red mulch flower bed at the Orlando VA Medical Center’s administration building.

“This community service ain’t too bad,” Dawson said. “I joked when I said Becky had me under the lash. It’s not hard. You just gotta do what you’re responsible for.”

Dawson is clean and sober, and a small business owner: He repairs and resells broken pallets. Thirteen months ago, it was a different story.

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HNF Stories
5:17 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Enrollment Targets Uninsured Hispanics

CuidadodeSalud.gov

Luis Alejandro Larrorte has lived the past two decades in the United States -- all of it without health insurance.

But the 56-year-old who sells cable satellite plans as a contractor was diagnosed with eye cancer. And the Pembroke Pines resident was eager to sign up on the federal healthcare marketplace.

But the Colombian native - who now is a U.S. citizen - says a lot of the insurance and medical terms involved didn't translate well into the Spanish-language website.

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HNF Stories
9:04 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Nearly 2.5M In FL, 36 Other States Pick Plans on HealthCare.gov

More than 1 million people selected a health plan during the fourth week of the health law’s open enrollment and nearly 2.5 million have done so since it began Nov. 15, federal officials said Tuesday.

“And this was before an extremely busy weekend,” said Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal online marketplace used by 37 states.

Tuesday’s report did not include enrollment for the final three days before the Dec. 15 deadline for people to enroll if they want coverage to begin Jan. 1.

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HNF Stories
8:56 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Doctors Debate Stability of Mom Who Drove Into Ocean

Two doctors offered conflicting testimony today on whether a South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach needs to be forcibly confined for mental-health treatment.

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HNF Stories
8:53 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Medical Marijuana Backers Court Lawmakers, Investors

The medical marijuana amendment failed at the polls during last month's election. But that doesn't mean marijuana campaigners have given up.

The Florida for Care Winter Conference takes place Wednesday in Miami at the downtown Intercontinental Hotel. Organizer Ben Pollara said lawmakers will be among the attendees at the all-day conference, which has a two-track agenda for legalizing marijuana as medicine. 

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HNF Stories
8:40 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Florida Matters: Year 2 of Enrollment on HealthCare.gov (LISTEN)

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:30 am

It's the second year of enrollment for health insurance plans under the federal health law on HealthCare.gov, the website that Floridians, and people in dozens of other states, use to shop for health insurance.

As of Dec. 15, we have passed a key deadline, the deadline to buy a plan to have coverage that starts Jan. 1. But open enrollment runs through Feb. 15, 2015, and we have gathered a panel to talk about what consumers be doing now if they still need to get health insurance coverage to comply with the federal health law known as Obamacare.

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HNF Stories
8:39 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Elders Trapped By Guardianship Law

Marie Winkelman, 89, had her rights removed a year ago at the request of her stepson-in-law, and is bewildered by the idea that she no longer has access to her own finances.
Thomas Bender Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 Florida's elder guardianship program is meant to help vulnerable elders.

But Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Barbara Peters Smith recently published a series that shows the rapidly expanding system run in Florida’s probate court system ignores the rights of some. She spoke with Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden about the year-long investigation.

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HNF Stories
8:56 am
Tue December 16, 2014

WellCare Appoints New CEO

Ken Burdick
Credit WellCare Health Plans

WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Florida’s largest Medicaid HMO provider, announced Monday that Kenneth Burdick will be appointed as CEO, according to a statement released by the Tampa-based company. 

Burdick, who previously served as the company’s president and chief operating officer, will be replacing interim CEO David J. Gallitano Jan. 1.

According to the statement, Burdick has previously held executive positions with companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Coventry Health Care, and UnitedHealth Group.

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HNF Stories
8:45 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Mom Who Drove Kids Into Ocean in Court

A South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach will learn her fate during a court hearing on her mental health.

During Tuesday's hearing in Daytona Beach, psychologists who treated 33-year-old Ebony Wilkerson will offer their opinion on whether she needs to be forcibly hospitalized for treatment.

If Circuit Judge Leah Case decides no hospitalization is required, Wilkerson could be released under the court's supervision.

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HNF Stories
8:40 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Armstrong Again Named DOH Secretary

Credit University of South Florida

Governor Rick Scott on Monday tapped Dr. John Armstrong again as Florida’s Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health.

Armstrong has been in the post since 2012. His predecessor, Dr. Frank Farmer, stepped down after about a year on the job, citing taking care of his wife who has breast cancer.

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HNF Stories
8:33 am
Tue December 16, 2014

New Surgeon General Has Florida Roots

Vivek Murthy
Credit Associated Press

The Senate on Monday approved President Barack Obama's nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as U.S. surgeon general, despite opposition from Republicans and some Democrats over his support for gun control and past statements that gun violence is a public health issue.

The son of immigrants from India, Murthy told senators he was inspired to become a doctor while helping out on weekends at his father's family medicine clinic in Miami.

He moved to Florida at the age of 3, and graduated from Miami's Palmetto Senior High in 1994.

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HNF Stories
7:26 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Deadline for Jan. 1 Health Coverage Gone – Now What?

Jodi Ray is the project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families at USF.

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 10:02 am

  

The deadline has passed to buy a health plan on HealthCare.gov for coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2015.

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7:46 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Why Miami-Dade High School Students Are Teaching Their Classmates About Health

HIP founder Risa Berrin says the program always provides food during after school training sessions because some students don't get regular meals at home.

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:40 am

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

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HNF Stories
4:19 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Supporters Hope Third Time Is The Charm For Medicaid Expansion In Florida

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 4:15 pm

A coalition of businesses groups, local officials and healthcare industry representatives has rolled out a plan to insure nearly one million low-income Floridians. But they’re not calling it a Medicaid Expansion. 

More than 800,ooo Floridians are in health insurance limbo. They fall into what’s called the Medicaid coverage gap. Reed Mahoney of Tallahassee, is among them.

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HNF Stories
9:37 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Holiday Office Party Sickens 55

Though not always pathogenic, Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is sometimes the cause of skin infections, sinusitis and food poisoning.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A holiday party that sickened 55 office workers in Maitland this week has been reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The luncheon put 20 people in the hospital, including a pregnant woman.

If the Maitland outbreak happened in 2013, it would have ranked No. 8 on Food Safety News’ list of top 10 largest outbreaks.

Here’s how foodborne illness lawyer and Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler put it:

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HNF Stories
8:18 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Florida Is No. 32 in Health Rankings

Credit www.healthcare.gov

A new report places Florida as the 32nd healthiest state in the nation.

The report released Wednesday by UnitedHealth Foundation says that in the past year the percentage of Floridians who smoke decreased slightly, from 17.7 percent to 16.8 percent.

The percentage of adults who binge drink also dropped, from 16.5 percent to 15.5 percent.

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HNF Stories
7:11 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Thrasher On Revived Bill Allowing Guns On Campus: 'My Position Hasn't Changed'

Dr. Robert Cowie, Feb. 22, 2011, speaking to lawmakers against SB 234. His daughter, an FSU student, was killed at a frat house just weeks before. Cowie's testimony along with then-Sen. Thrasher helped defeat the bill.

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 6:26 pm

Florida State University President John Thrasher says his position has not changed since the recent filing of a bill allowing people to open carry on public college and university campuses. It’s the same bill Thrasher helped defeat in 2011 when he was a state senator.

In 2011, the testimony of Dr. Robert Cowie, a friend of Thrasher, also helped derail the bill. Just weeks before, Cowie’s daughter, FSU Student Ashley, had been accidentally shot by a rifle and killed at a frat house.

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7:02 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Planned Parenthood Expanding Reach

Jenna Tosh of Planned Parenthood of Central Florida

Some sexual assault victims in Central Florida will now be able to get low-cost treatment closer to home.

That’s because of an agreement between the local Planned Parenthood and Victim Service Center announced this week. Planned Parenthood’s new Kissimmee clinic is now part of a referral agreement with Victim Service Center, which runs the local 24-hour rape crisis hotline.

Victims of rape and sexual assault will get access to free initial and follow-up screenings for STDs like HIV, as well as reduced-cost emergency contraception.

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6:49 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Hospitals Helping with Insurance Signup

Taber Andrew Bain, via Flickr Creative Commons

Some Central Florida hospitals are ramping up plans to get patients signed up for insurance - when they come to the emergency room.

Both Florida Hospital in Orlando and Orlando Health are expanding a program that puts federal health care marketplace navigators in the hospital during the open enrollment season under way.

Trained counselors are already in place at five Orlando Health locations, said Tom Yoesle, the chief operating officer of revenue management for Orlando Health.

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6:31 am
Thu December 11, 2014

State Takes Over Medicare HMO

Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds III
Credit Credit Florida's Second Judicial Circuit

Florida Healthcare Plus, a Medicare HMO with 10,000 members, was declared insolvent Wednesday and turned over to state authorities.

In such cases, state and federal officials help patients move into other health plans or to traditional Medicare. More information is expected on that today or Friday.

The state Division of Financial Services took over the Coral Gables-based plan immediately after the order was issued Wednesday by Circuit Court Judge George S. Reynolds in Tallahassee. DFS is expected to sell off the company’s assets Jan. 1.

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12:29 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Young Adults Remain Enrollment Challenge

Credit Megan Milanese

Christian Ward lounges on a couch in the University of South Florida student center in Tampa. He props crutches against the armrest and stretches out his leg, which is covered in a cast up to his thigh.

Like a lot of college students, Ward’s parents handle his health insurance. He'll tell you that having it definitely came in handy during his moment of need.

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HNF Stories
3:53 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Deadline for Jan. 1 Coverage Nears

Monday’s an important deadline for Floridians shopping for insurance on HealthCare.gov.

Nearly a million residents signed up on this federally run marketplace last year. Now those wanting to re-enroll -- or sign up for the first time for coverage -- must select a plan by Monday if they want to be covered starting at the beginning of the New Year.

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9:10 am
Wed December 10, 2014

FL Selling Off Shuttered Mental Hospital

Florida is selling off a closed hospital and nearly 500 acres to a company that is promising to build a driver training center and hotel.

Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday voted to sell the former G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital to Power Auto Corporation for $2.5 million.

The hospital located near Arcadia treated individuals with special needs and mental illness from 1947 to 2002. It was then used to house juvenile criminals for nearly a decade before it was shut down.

HNF Stories
9:08 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Scott Reappoints Dudek as AHCA Boss

AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek

Governor Rick Scott is reappointing Elizabeth Dudek to oversee the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Dudek has been the head of the agency since 2011. Together, they helped privatize the Medicaid program, paying private insurance companies a set fee for roughly 3 million Medicaid recipients instead of the state paying for each service patients incur.

Scott also praised Dudek for overseeing that Florida hospitals were prepared for Ebola.

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9:06 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Scottish Official: U.S. Needs Health Integration

Derek Feeley, former director of Scotland’s National Health Service

The former director of Scotland’s National Health Services said the U.S. health care system would benefit from further integration.

Derek Feeley, speaking at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s national forum on quality improvement, said the U.S. should blur the lines between health care and social services.

Feeley imported the U.S. model for patient safety.

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9:29 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

OB-Gyns Protest Safety Rule

Dr. Karen Harris, OB-Gyn
Credit North Florida Women's Physicians

Florida’s tough new safety rule for medical-office surgery, years in the making, has been delayed at the last minute by an outcry from obstetrician-gynecologists.

The OB-Gyns appeared Friday at the Florida Board of Medicine, which was to have passed the safety rule that day, to ask for an amendment to spare them from some of the provisions.  Board members decided instead to postpone the issue while they figure out what to do.

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