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Health News Florida
10:31 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Immigrant KidCare Plan Unlikely

When the Legislative session resumes next week, bills targeting speed limit increases, juvenile sentencing and medical tourism will head to floor votes in both chambers, the News Service of Florida reports.

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Health News Florida
9:36 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Publix, Sea World Ask ACA Change

Three powerful Central Florida companies back legislation to increase the number of hours an employee must work to qualify for employer-provided health care. 

Health News Florida
9:22 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Next Halifax Trial Focus: Bed Flipping

The second phase of a whistle-blower case brought against Halifax Health will focus on patient admissions and whether the hospital improperly charged Medicare for their stays, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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HNF Stories
9:03 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Scott Blasts Medicare Advantage Cuts

Three Southern Republican governors are writing President Barack Obama to complain about newly announced Medicare Advantage payments.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the April 15 letter that says changes to Medicare Advantage payments will harm "America's seniors." The changes are blamed on the nation's health care overhaul.

The letter contends an announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that payments will increase "amounts to little more than political theater."

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HNF Stories
8:49 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Group: Med Mal Cap Amendment Needed

Following a Florida Supreme Court decision that struck down caps on certain awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, the members of a 2002 task force that supported those caps are calling for a constitutional amendment that would place the caps on solid footing.

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HNF Stories
12:57 am
Wed April 16, 2014

This HMO Can Be Fixed: New CEO

Susan Rawlings Molina
Credit Linked In

Florida Healthcare Plus, a financially struggling Medicare Advantage plan, has brought in a new CEO who's an experienced senior-products executive and turnaround artist.

Susan Rawlings Molina, who arrived at the Coral Gables-based company in January, says she was recruited for the task by her predecessor, Ray Quirantes. Although the company has been losing money, she told Health News Florida Tuesday afternoon, its investors have provided adequate capital and want to make it a success.

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HNF Stories
1:32 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Ex-Pres. of Medicare Plan Arrested

Haider Ali Khan, patriarch of the now-defunct Quality Health Plans Inc., has been arrested and charged with more than a dozen felonies involving health-insurance fraud, state officials said.

Khan, who was president of the Tampa-based Medicare plan before it closed, turned himself in to Leon County Jail officials on April 3 and was released on $150,000 bond, according to the state Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). His arrest came 20 months after that of his son and daughter, both of whom were also executives in the company.

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Health News Florida
11:54 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Locked Units Out of Trafficking Bills

Bills in the House and Senate that would help victims of human trafficking are moving forward, but without a controversial provision that would have allowed judges and social workers to have under-age victims held involuntarily in "safe houses," the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

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Health News Florida
11:52 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Feds' Action Puts Pressure on FL

Changes in the funding formula for Medicaid that will take many millions of dollars away from large safety-net hospitals such as Jackson Memorial and Tampa General are getting lawmakers' attention, now that it's clear the federal government isn't going to pull the state's fat out of the fire.

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HNF Stories
10:58 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Medicare HMO in Trouble?

Federal officials have imposed a fine on Florida Healthcare Plus, a Medicare Advantage plan based in Coral Gables, for failing to notify members of upcoming changes in the plan by the deadline last fall, just before  open-enrollment season.

Meanwhile, the plan seems to have retrenched, with some of its offices closing around the state. Calls to Florida Healthcare Plus offices in Orlando, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach drew recorded messages that said those numbers were no longer in service.

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Health News Florida
10:06 am
Tue April 15, 2014

ACA Spending Below Projections

The cost of the Affordable Care Act is about $5 billion a year less than originally projected, mostly because insurance premiums were lower than expected, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

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Health News Florida
10:01 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Highest Court May Consider Scott’s Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court will meet privately on Friday to decide  whether it will hear an appeal filed by Gov. Rick Scott on state employee drug testing, the News Service of Florida reports. Scott filed the appeal in January after a lower court threw  out  his executive order that all state employees undergo random urine screens. Opponents of the order say that it violates the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The 11th U.S.

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Health News Florida
10:28 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Pot's Value Backed By Science

Credit Cherie Diez / Tampa Bay Times

As lawmakers continue to debate the legalization of medical marijuana, biologists say science supports the medicinal value of pot, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

 

Scientists have identified that marijuana activates the on-off switches in the body that can affect certain cells, including those that affect motion, memory, appetite and judgment, the Times reports.

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Health News Florida
10:18 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Mother of 3 in Medicaid 'Gap' Dies

While 7 million Americans enrolled for health insurance before the March 31 Affordable Care Act deadline,  Charlene Dill wasn’t one of them.

The young mother of three collapsed and died from a treatable heart condition on March 21. She fell into  Florida’s health care gap; her income from part-time commission-based jobs was just $9,000, too poor for Affordable Care Act subsidies, the Orlando Weekly magazine reports.

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Health News Florida
9:42 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Nurse Charged in Hit-and-Run

A Tampa General Hospital nurse was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident on Saturday.  Police say Danielle Nichole Goeller was driving a car that hit a pedestrian who had stepped into the roadway, but allegedly left the scene, according to the Tampa Bay Times

After being alerted of a damaged Volvo in a nearby parking lot, Tampa police arrested Goeller, the Times reports.

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Health News Florida
9:28 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Abortion, Gun Bills Pass Before Break

After passing several major bills so far during the 2014 session, the Florida Legislature is taking the week off to observe the Passover and Easter holidays, the Associated Press reports.

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HNF Stories
8:05 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Legislature Taking Holiday Break

The Florida Legislature won't be getting much work done in the next week.

State legislators are taking off the seventh week of the 2014 session because it conflicts with Passover and Easter.

The session lasts 60 days and is scheduled to end in early May.

Legislators have already passed major bills dealing with sex offenders and a rollback in auto registration fees.

However, the Legislature must still pass a state budget in order to adjourn on time.

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HNF Stories
6:55 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Feds OK $2.2B for Hospitals, Med Schools

Cindy Mann, director of Medicaid.
Credit Medicaid.gov

Florida Medicaid received word Friday evening that federal officials have authorized a $2 billion hospital fund for indigent care starting July 1 and an extra $200 million for the state’s medical schools.

Justin Senior, Florida’s Medicaid director, said the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services okayed $2.2 billion for the “Low Income Pool (LIP),” which is used to support “safety-net” hospitals and clinics that treat a lot of Medicaid patients. The LIP is a combination of local and state funds that draw down federal match.

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HNF Stories
5:15 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

CMS: We're Open to State Ideas

Marilyn Tavenner
Credit commons.wikimedia.org

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says he has hopeful news for those who are stewing over Florida's refusal of $51 billion in federal funds to cover the state's low-income uninsured.

Nelson, D-FL, says the federal agency in charge of Medicaid is "ready and willing to work directly with Florida on a Florida-designed approach" to covering those below the poverty level. He cited a letter he received Friday from Marilyn Tavenner, chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

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Health News Florida
11:41 am
Fri April 11, 2014

'Train' Bill Includes Hospital for Jax

As the House and Senate head toward a collision over trauma centers in late April, a proposal to let UF Health Jacksonville build a new hospital was added to the House health-care "train," HB 7113.

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Health News Florida
10:59 am
Fri April 11, 2014

FL's Mega-Millionaires of Medicare

Dr. Salomon Melgen and Dr. Asad Qamar
Associated Press

Dr. Salomon Melgen, the Palm Beach County ophthalmologist who received more than any other doctor in the country from Medicare in 2012, tried to use political pull in the Democratic Party to get the FBI off his case.

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HNF Stories
10:55 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Compromise Saves Crisis Funding

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.

When there's a big fight brewing, call in the grownups. It helps if one is a nurse.

On Thursday, with mental-health centers and hospitals ready to fight over state funds for crisis stabilization, Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring,  presented a compromise on SB 1726 to the Appropriations Committee that passed unanimously

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HNF Stories
10:21 am
Fri April 11, 2014

FL Medicaid Enrollment Expands

Florida’s Republican lawmakers remain staunchly opposed to expanding Medicaid — a system they’ve repeatedly said is too expensive and doesn’t improve health outcomes. Yet Florida’s Medicaid rolls are expanding under the Affordable Care Act whether Florida likes it or not.

That’s because people trying to sign up for health insurance under President Obama’s new health law are finding out — to their surprise — that they qualify for Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor.

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HNF Stories
10:00 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Sebelius Out; Budget Chief In?

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, budget chief, to be nominated for HHS Secretary.
Credit AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from the Obama administration after the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, a White House official said Thursday.

Her resignation comes just one week after the end of the first enrollment period for the Obamacare law. While the opening weeks of the rollout were marred by website woes, the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling more than 7 million people in the new insurance marketplaces.

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HNF Stories
11:07 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Health Bill 'Train' on Its Way

Credit Freefoto

The Florida House Health & Human Services Committee passed a megabill Thursday  morning that combines three prickly issues, in the hope that packaging them will make it harder for the Senate to kill or maim any of them.

HB 7113 would protect private for-profit trauma centers, allow for independent practice for nurse practitioners and allow out-of-state doctors to participate in telehealth without a Florida license. The Florida Medical Association opposes the latter two.

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Health News Florida
10:50 am
Thu April 10, 2014

3 of Top 5 Medicare Payments in FL

Three of the top five Medicare payments in 2012 went to doctors who practice in Florida, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Florida doctors topping the list are Salomon E. Melgen of West Palm Beach (#1), Asad U. Qamar of Ocala (#2) and Alexander M. Eaton of Fort Myers (#5).

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Health News Florida
10:16 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Scott Denies ACA Ads Are False

Gov. Rick Scott is not backing down from a pair of campaign ads that state 300,000 Floridians lost their Florida Blue health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, the Miami Herald reports. The ads attack Scott’s presumed opponent, Charlie Crist, for his support of the federal health law, and use a claim about the Floridians losing insurance that was rated “Mostly False” by PolitiFact.

HNF Stories
9:10 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Crisis-Unit Funding Fight Today

A dramatic restructuring of the way Florida pays for crisis care in mental health -- one that pits hospitals against crisis stabilization units -- comes to a head today.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a five-hour meeting Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. to handle two dozen matters, including SB 1726.  It would shift some of the money that now goes to the crisis units, called CSUs, to hospitals that are so-called "Baker Act receiving facilities" because they take in patients who qualify for involuntary treatment under a state law commonly called the Baker Act.

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HNF Stories
7:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Health Care 'Train' Coming?

Leaders of the Florida House, hoping to protect their pet health issues from being picked apart in the Senate,  have bundled them into a package to be introduced Thursday morning. In legislative parlance, they're creating a "train."

The idea of a train is that it's a bunch of railcars that are connected and it would be hard to remove one of them without causing them all to derail. As a practical matter, it means some lawmakers might have to accept a bill they don't like in order to get one that's a must-pass.

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HNF Stories
5:58 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

FL Scientists Key in Melanoma Breakthrough

Kieran Smalley in lab at Moffitt.
Credit Carol Gentry, HNF/WUSF

In a lab the size of a basketball court, Moffitt scientist Kieran Smalley and his team study human genes and proteins involved in different kinds of cancer. Their machines whir and clang, but the researchers don't seem to hear it.

Dr. Smalley has a particular interest in stage 4 melanoma – the kind that’s so advanced neither surgery nor drugs will help.   

Half of late-stage melanoma cases are triggered by a gene mutation, called B-Raf.  There's a way to block it, Dr. Smalley says.

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