HNF Stories

HCA pleased with final bill

Apr 28, 2009

By Christine Jordan Sexton
4/28/2009 © Health News Florida

HCA Healthcare Corp. didn’t succeed in killing the panel that recommends spending of $1 billion a year in Medicaid dollars. But it will leave the session satisfied, as Florida lawmakers on Monday sent a measure overhauling the panel to Gov. Charlie Crist.

With little debate, the Florida Senate voted unanimously to change the membership of the Low Income Pool Council, a move that would block professional lobbyists from serving on the group. 

By Gary Fineout 
4/24/2009 © Health News Florida

Responding to a move among Florida’s universities to require that all students have health insurance, the Florida House on Thursday put new requirements on university health centers. 

By Christine Jordan Sexton
4/23/2009 © Health News Florida

Rep. Ed Homan, who dreams of solving two of the state’s most pressing problems by providing “medical homes” for Medicaid patients at expanded physician-training programs, has found a way to improve odds of making that happen.

He’s turned HB 7131 into a “train” – a massive piece of legislation that contains a number of unrelated issues, some too powerful to derail. He’s hooked his dream onto a Medicaid fraud-fighting bill and a measure that would streamline state regulation of health facilities.

4/22/2009 © Health News Florida
A Congressional staff report raps Florida and seven other states for misuse of Medicaid stimulus funds that were supposed to create health-care jobs and help newly uninsured people get coverage. The report raises a question of whether Florida could be held accountable for paying back diverted money.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
4/21/2009 © Health News Florida

At the eleventh hour, the Florida Association of Counties is scrambling to undo a budget provision that would cap salaries of future employees in county health departments.

That would make it impossible for the health departments to offer competitive salaries to attract the doctors and dentists who serve the poor and uninsured, the counties say.

4/20/2009 © Health News Florida

The state Medicaid program will "ensure a smooth transition" for recipients with serious mental illness whose caregiver networks were bought by  corporate HMOs, a statement from the Agency for Health Care Administration says.

By Carol Gentry
4/20/2009 © Health  News Florida

Saying immunizations are "vital for the health of children and adults," more than two dozen Florida pediatricians have signed a statement opposing a Senate bill that would ban the use of certain vaccines and allow parents to delay immunizations usually given to infants and toddlers. The doctors say the bill would violate federal policy that enables children in Medicaid to receive life-saving vaccines.

4/17/2009 © Health News Florida

Thousands of Florida Medicaid patients who were being treated in specially-designed mental health plans were recently switched without warning or consent into HMOs that removed them from their treatment and support, according to the advocacy group Florida CHAIN.

By Carol Gentry and David Gulliver
4/17/2009 © Health News Florida 

A national shortage of opium-based painkillers triggered by a Food and Drug Administration order has forced some cancer patients to search frantically for pharmacies that have it in stock, doctors and pharmacists say.

One of the painkillers, quick-release oxycodone, hit the scarcity peak about a month ago, forcing doctors to prescribe alternatives. But now some of those substitutes – morphine, hydromorphone, and Dilaudid – are headed in the same direction.

By Gary Fineout
4/16/2009 © Health News Florida 

State lawmakers on Wednesday used the first round of federal stimulus money intended for Medicaid to plug a shortfall in overall spending in the current year’s budget through a complicated series of maneuvers that critics say violates Congressional intent. 

FMA plan could cost $11M

Apr 9, 2009

By Carol Gentry
4/10/2009 © Health News Florida

The Florida Medical Association’s number-one legislative priority for this session -- changing the way doctors are paid in the state's self-insured health plan -- took a hit on Thursday when an actuary said it could cost $11 million.

That hole in the state health insurance fund would have to be made up by taxpayers. Lawmakers have already ruled out a jump in premiums for state workers, who have not had a raise in three years.

4/9/2009 © Health News Florida
Advocates for the poor and disabled find themselves in an unaccustomed position when it comes to Medicaid this year, News Service of Florida reports, by getting what they wanted without having to fight a protracted battle in Tallahassee.

By David Gulliver
4/9/2009 © Health News Florida

The woman -- a girl, really -- was just 15, about 24 weeks pregnant. No longer able to conceal her swelling belly, she had to tell her parents, which led to a feud. As delivery neared, her blood pressure soared. 

It's the kind of scene that can lead to a tragedy. Instead, four months later, the girl delivered a healthy, 7-pound baby boy after a quick and uncomplicated labor, surrounded by parents, siblings and friends. 


 By Gary Fineout
4/8/2009 © Health News Florida

For the third time in two years, a controversial state-funded program meant to steer women away from abortion has become a flashpoint in the state budget. The Florida Senate’s version wipes out the $2 million set aside for the “crisis counseling” program, while the House’s keeps the funding intact.

By David Gulliver
4/9/2009 © Health News Florida

A friend of mine, a psychologist, counsels a number of older clients for depression. Lately, she has been hearing a common complaint: “I just can’t stand reading the news anymore.”

She called me after one such session the other day. “Why isn’t there any good news, Dave?” she asked me.

Big-name surgeon, big goof

Apr 7, 2009

By Christine Giordano
4/7/2009 © Health News Florida

Juan Asensio-Gonzalez, one of the most respected trauma surgeons in the country, found himself in an unaccustomed role on Friday, trying to explain to the Florida Board of Medicine how he could have left a 13-inch clamp inside a patient.

Asensio, director of the Trauma Critical Research and Training program at Jackson Memorial Hospital and a professor at University of Miami, literally wrote the book on trauma surgery, on cases like the one that led to the official complaint.

By Christine Giordano
4/7/2009 © Health News Florida
Declaring they have “zero tolerance for fraud,” members of the Florida Board of Medicine revoked the license of a Winter Park doctor who forged credentials making him appear an expert in pain management.

Juan Richards didn’t just hang the phony certificate on the wall, the Department of Health said in its complaint. He also tricked insurers into thinking he was certified by the American Board of Pain Management.

By Christine Giordano
4/6/2009 © Florida Health News

Fort Myers plastic surgeon Marc Schneider accepted a reprimand and $10,000 fine as a “fair” end to state charges that he neglected a breast-reduction to the point that the patient got gangrene.

Members of the Board of Medicine, which heard the five-year-old case on Friday afternoon, faulted Schneider for leaving too much responsibility in the hands of office staff and for doing an unessential operation on a high-risk patient.

By Carol Gentry
4/3/2009 © Health News Florida

Florida pays managed-care plans $2.5 billion a year to make sure Medicaid patients in the state get taken care of properly, including getting their screenings, shots and other important preventive care on time.

But new research from 2008 shows Florida’s Medicaid managed-care plans, while doing marginally better than in 2007, still fell significantly below the national average on standardized scores accepted by the industry.

By Gary Fineout
4/2/2009 © Health News Florida
Florida could miss out on millions in federal aid that would benefit children unless it makes changes to the KidCare program.

The Florida Health Policy Center has concluded in a new report that the state could draw down additional federal money under the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program,  passed by Congress and signed into law in February by President Barack Obama.

By Carol Gentry
4/2/2009 © Health News Florida

Some patients travel to other countries to get a price break. But how many take their surgeons with them? 

Last month, a Miami-area surgeon and one of his prostate cancer patients flew together to Trinidad so that the uninsured patient could afford the procedure he wanted.

By Gary Fineout
4/1/2009 © Health News Florida

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/31/2009 © Health News Florida

Calling Miami-Dade County “ground zero” for Medicaid fraud, the Legislature is cracking down on rogue home health agencies, clinics and equipment suppliers in South Florida.

Today, the House Health and Family Services Policy Council will consider a bill (CS/HB 1487) that would prevent any new home health agencies from operating in Miami-Dade and Broward counties until July 2010.

3/30/2009 © Florida Health News
Medicaid Reform could branch off in a new direction under a proposal that could emerge from a House committee this week. It would set up "medical homes" for patients using community health centers, based on the famed Mayo Clinic model of having a whole team consulting on a patient's needs in one site.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/27/2009 © Florida Health News

A proposal unveiled by the Senate spending committee on Thursday would cripple -- maybe kill -- the second phase of the controversial “Medicaid Reform” pilot. The Senate budget also would cut Medicaid payments 3 percent to hospitals, nursing homes and HMOs.

However, it would restore funding to the state's Medically Needy program, which helps working families struggling to pay large medical bills. Lawmakers have to revive that program to qualify for federal stimulus money. 

3/29/2009 © Florida Health News

Can a state Medicaid program cut treatments to a child if a doctor says they are medically necessary? Three states, including Florida,  say yes, and made that argument this week before a federal appeals court in Atlanta.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/25/2009 Florida Health News

TALLAHASSEE – Nearly 1,000 people, most of them middle-aged women, have signed up for a new state-promoted insurance program that requires participating companies to take all comers. 

Gov. Charlie Crist, who pushed the Cover Florida program last year, said Tuesday that the six insurance companies participating have fielded more than 10,000 calls from interested Floridians and that 952 people had enrolled as of March 15. 

By Carol Gentry
3/24/2009 © Florida Health News

Federal authorities have ordered private Medicare plans to stop paying hundreds of dollars in “referral fees” to sales agents who steer a beneficiary to a company for enrollment. The practice came to light in a Florida Health News article on Feb. 6.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/19/2009 © Florida Health News

Florida had 5.8 million residents who went without health coverage at some point in 2007-08, nearly 3/4 of them for more than six months, according to a report released today by Families USA.

3/19/2009 Florida Health News

Well, it's happened again: Florida scored worse than the national average, from a public-health standpoint, in all categories in a report on births for 2007. The state had a greater percentage of teen mothers than average and widened its lead over most other states in two categories -- births to unmarried women and the percentage of Caesarean births.