HNF Stories

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.

Pill puzzle: flush or crush?

Mar 19, 2009

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/20/2009 © Florida Health News

A curious ritual occurs once a month at Palm Gardens nursing home in Tampa. 

Administrator Scott Allen, a pharmacist and the supervisor of nursing sort through drawers where painkillers, anti-depressants and other drugs are stored when patients die or leave. Usually they come up with about $5,000 worth.

It takes them about three hours to find all the leftover drugs, remove them from the packaging and fill out the paperwork. Then they dispose of them down the toilet.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/18/2009 © Florida Health News

Two lawmakers have asked Gov. Charlie Crist to investigate a miscue by the Florida Board of Nursing, which met last month in violation of the Sunshine Law. Now the board will have to hold a do-over in April so that its actions will be official.

The legally required notice didn’t come out until Feb. 6, the last day of the three-day meeting in Tallahassee, according to State Rep. Denise Grimsley, a nurse, and Sen. Durell Peaden, a retired doctor.

WellCare hints it owes more

Mar 17, 2009

 3/17/2009 © Florida Health News

Without elaborating, WellCare Health Plans signaled on Monday that it may have to pay more than it had hoped to settle a fraud investigation that became public knowledge when the company's Tampa headquarters were raided by FBI agents in October 2007.

3/16/2009 © Florida Health News

A lot of doctors cite cost as the barrier to going paperless. Others need technical help. Today, University of South Florida announced an initiative to blow past both of those barriers: "PaperFree Tampa Bay."

By Carol Gentry
3/12/2009 © Florida Health News

For 20 years, Dr. Mark Kantzler has been getting into trouble with prescription painkillers, records show.. Sometimes it’s from his own addiction, sometimes from the prescriptions he writes. 

He’s been suspended from practice twice. A newspaper featured him in a 2003 series on dangerous over-prescribers. He paid a $700,000 settlement in 2003 for a patient’s death from a drug overdose and now is being sued in another death. 

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/12/2009 © Florida Health News

Gov. Charlie Crist’s proposed budget would remove a funding threat to five county health departments that was due to take effect in September as part of Medicaid Reform.

As Florida Health News recently reported, public health analysts were predicting county clinics would lose millions of dollars a year and no longer be able to care for the uninsured if the payment formula changed.

HMO says exec stole $1.3M

Mar 11, 2009

By Christine Giordano
 3/11/2009 © Florida Health News

Citrus Health Care, which reported big losses last year, may have been the victim of more than a bad business climate. Its director of compliance – the one in charge of keeping the company honest -- scammed Citrus Health out of $1.3 million, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Hillsborough circuit court.

Correspondence in the file indicates that the FBI is investigating.

By Carol Gentry
3/10/2009 © Florida Health News

As a member of the state’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, psychiatrist Michael Bengtson advises the Florida Medicaid program on which drugs need to be available to patients without a hassle, within the budget available.

3/10/2009 © Florida Health News

How good are Medicare beneficiaries at shopping for the best deal in insurance coverage, given a large array of choices?
Not very, according to a study that has significant implications for Florida because of the staggering number of choices here.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/6/2009 © Florida Health News

With consolidation on the minds of cash-strapped state officials, some are jumping on a new report by government auditors suggesting a joint effort on buying and packaging prescription drugs. 

By Paul Metts
3/5/2009 Florida Health News

By Christine Jordan Sexton
3/4/2009 © Florida Health News

Last year, Senator Durell Peaden was Gov. Charlie Crist’s health-care point man. He was primary sponsor of the Cover Florida Health plan and helped the governor in other ways.

But Peaden, who chairs the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, won’t be carrying the ball for the governor this year. A retired physician from Crestview, Peaden has vowed to work against Crist’s attempted merger of the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

3/4/3009 © Florida Health News 

A coalition of consumer advocacy groups rallied at the Capitol today to urge lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax, plug loopholes in sales-tax exemptions and find other ways to bridge the budget gap. 

They called Gov. Charlie Crist's request to the Legislature to rely on the federal stimulus a "shell game," while he said the money would create more than 200,000 jobs that "the people of Florida desperately need." He said he was grateful to get the money and pre 

By Gary Fineout
3/3/2009 © Florida Health News

Requiring women to get an ultrasound screening before they can have an abortion, an issue that roiled the past two legislative sessions, is back. This time, its odds of passage have improved.
  
In the waning moments of last year’s session, an identical bill died on a 20-20 tie vote in the Florida Senate. But two of the seven Republicans who voted against the measure have left the Senate due to term limits.

By Carol Gentry
2/27/2009 © Florida Health News 

A former state health official says a clause in Florida’s Medicaid Reform plan will cost hospitals nearly $4 billion a year in uninsured emergency-room visits if the pilot project expands statewide. 

Aside from the financial impact, the influx of patients will flood emergency rooms and make it difficult for patients in need of immediate attention to get it, according to health consultant Paul Metts, former deputy secretary at DOH.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
2/27/2009 © Florida Health News

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s Cover Florida plan got most of the attention last year, but it wasn’t the only health-insurance initiative that passed the 2008 Legislature.

The forgotten one, Florida Health Choices, is only now coming together. Its new board was to hold its organizational meeting today, just as the 2009 session is about to begin. 

2/26/2009 © Florida Health News 
The Dartmouth Atlas project compared medical spending per person in cities across the nation and found Miami was off the charts -- about twice as much as average. That's not a total shock since federal prosecutors have said health fraud rates there are the highest in the nation.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
2/25/2009 © Florida Health News

Gov. Charlie Crist is reportedly preparing to recommend a merger of the two largest state health agencies into one, a proposal that would affect thousands of state employees. He also wants to keep the state’s Medicaid “Reform” program unchanged and increase the fees doctors and HMOs get for treating the poor.

By Carol Gentry
2/24/2009 Florida Health News 

Pres. Barack Obama told the nation Tuesday night that the nation must get control of health spending immediately. It "has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year." 

WellCare members not stuck

Feb 24, 2009

By Carol Gentry
2/24/2009 © Florida Health News

WellCare drug-plan members left reeling from last week's federal crackdown on the Tampa company are not stuck in WellCare for the rest of 2009, after all. They have options.

Medicare officials did not make that clear until Monday afternoon, after Florida Health News questioned remarks an official made last week.

By Christine Jordan Sexton
2/19/2009 © Florida Health News

TALLAHASSEE – The battle to abolish an obscure Medicaid spending panel has taken on the trappings of a full-fledged political campaign.

 By Christine Jordan Sexton
2/18/2009 © Florida Health News

 By Carol Gentry
2/13/2009 © Florida Health News

As many as 300 Florida doctors now require patients to sign a promise that they will not post Internet comments about them without permission.

Patients promise they “will not denigrate, defame, disparage or cast aspersions upon” the doctor and will do all in their power to prevent friends or family members from doing so.

2/12/2009 © Florida Health News

By Christine Jordan Sexton
2/11/2009 © Florida Health News

TALLAHASSEE—The biggest health care fight of the upcoming legislative session could be over an obscure state panel that recommends how to dole out nearly $1 billion for treating the poor and uninsured. 

The battle has already sparked a slick lobbying campaign featuring a TV ad that raises conflict-of-interest accusations against the members of the Low Income Pool, or LIP Council. Most of them work for hospitals.

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