News

$2M Grants Target First-Generation STEM Majors At UCF

Aug 3, 2015
PRIME STEM / WMFE

For first-generation college students, the path to graduation can be rocky. However, a $2.2 million award from the U.S. Department of Education will help them prepare become future doctors and engineers.

The University of Central Florida will receive more than $2 million from the U.S. Department of Education for its PRIME STEM program and Student Support Services. Both programs equip more than 200 low-income students with the personal, academic, and financial tools to advance in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Tallahassee Insiders Take Aim At Pot License

Aug 3, 2015
AP

Influential Tallahassee insiders --- and a former lawmaker who is the grandson of one of Florida's most-renowned citrus barons --- have banded together with the owner of an abortion clinic to get in on the ground floor of the state's burgeoning medical-marijuana industry.

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspx?MemberId=4418

A Florida legislator wants a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, but the organization calls the request "politically motivated."

State Rep. Charles McBurney, a Jacksonville Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked for the inquiry in a letter Thursday to the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Psssst — Need a phony ID? A fraudulent tax refund? Insurance money from a sham car crash? Florida may have just what you're looking for.

Since the first settlers hacked their way into the mangrove tangles and drained much of the swampland, sunny South Florida has been virtually synonymous with shady deals and scams.

The largest individual donor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Right to Rise Super PAC is South Florida health care entrepreneur Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, who donated $3 million. Separately, more than two dozen other companies with Florida addresses have contributed $100,000 or more to Right to Rise, records show.

The largest Florida corporate donor to a super political action committee backing Bush's presidential run is NextEra Energy Inc., the company that owns electric utility giant Florida Power & Light.

Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Department of Health confirmed a case of the West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, in Volusia County Wednesday.

  Health officials are expecting more cases, and warn residents to get rid of standing water and wear protective clothing.

Most West Nile Virus infections are mild, but about one percent of cases can cause permanent neurological damage, paralysis and even death. There is no treatment or vaccine for the virus.

Florida had 69 cases of West Nile Virus in 2012.

WMFE

President Barack Obama is unveiling an updated national strategy Thursday to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic that could have a big impact in Florida, which leads the nation in new HIV infections.

The White House unveiled the first national HIV plan in 2010, with ambitious, measurable goals: reduce new HIV diagnoses, increase the number of youth with an undetectable HIV viral load, and reduce the death rate from AIDS.

There’s been positive progress on all those, and there’s been a drop in the number of women, heterosexuals and IV-drug users contracting the disease.

TB Hospital Buyer Seeks Refund Over Land Estimate

Jul 29, 2015
Associated Press

A development company that acquired the site of the former A.G. Holley state tuberculosis hospital last year in Palm Beach County wants a $1.29 million refund from the state because the property has less land than advertised.

However, state officials contend that while the advertised acreage was an estimate, the Lantana property was sold under "as is, where is" terms.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will be asked next Wednesday to decide whether to approve the requested refund for Lantana Development LLC.

Associated Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is ordering state health officials to inspect Planned Parenthood offices to ensure they are obeying the law when performing abortions.

In a statement Wednesday, Scott called recent videos troubling and said it's against the law for any organizations to sell body parts. The Republican governor said the state will take quick legal and regulatory action against any of the 16 facilities found in violation.

hitthatswitch / Flickr https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down.

One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder.

He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work.

“I see it as being an AIDS ministry,” he said.

Associated Press

The corruption indictment against Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey is only a few months old, but early court filings pull back the curtain on a legal fight that promises to be bitter, personal and contested at each step.

Appeals Court Upholds Doctor-Patient Gun Law

Jul 29, 2015

For the second time in little more than a year, a federal appeals court Tuesday upheld a controversial Florida law that restricts doctors from asking questions and recording information about patients' gun ownership.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a victory for the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates and a defeat for medical groups that argued, at least in part, that the law infringed on doctors' First Amendment rights.

Carol Gentry / Health News Florida

Univita Health, which gained control of the entire Florida Medicaid home-care market a year ago, has suddenly lost all of its HMO contracts.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration made the announcement in an e-mail blast late Tuesday afternoon. 

Univita, based in Miramar, stopped processing requests for home health-care services, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and intravenous therapy “effective immediately,” AHCA said.

AHCA provided no reasons for its announcement, but released a statement this morning.

Alachua County Jail

Two Gainesville residents face multiple charges following an argument that escalated into gunshots being fired outside a University of Florida dormitory.

University police Maj. Brad Barber told The Gainesville Sun an argument broke out as people were leaving a bar.

Auto Insurer Pushes For Hospital Contracts

Jul 28, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance is asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about whether a Jacksonville hospital needs to turn over information about contracts with health insurers.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last month ruled in favor of Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, which now is known as UF Health Jacksonville, in the dispute stemming from personal-injury protection auto-insurance claims.

Execution Cocktail Arguments Continue

Jul 28, 2015
Florida Department of Corrections

Lawyers for Death Row inmate Jerry Correll on Monday backed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court to send his case back to a circuit judge, after Attorney General Pam Bondi's office asked justices to reconsider the decision.

Justices, in a 5-2 ruling last week, refused to lift a stay of Correll's execution and sent the case to a Central Florida circuit court for further consideration. Bondi's office responded Friday by asking for a rehearing in the state Supreme Court.

Under a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, a Miami pharmacist has pleaded guilty to one count of health care fraud for his role in submitting more than $1.8 million in false claims to Medicare, according to a news release from the DOJ. Evelio Fernandez Penaranda, the owner of  Naranja Pharmacy Inc., admitted to submitting claims for Medicare beneficiaries and doctors without their consent.

Insurers participating in Florida's new Medicaid managed care program say they've lost $542 million through 2014 and want the state to raise their rates. But after losing major federal funding for hospitals, Gov. Rick Scott doesn't want to use any more state money for the Medicaid program.

Scott and the insurers are locked in intense negotiations that could undermine the fledgling program that gives federal funds to private health insurance companies to oversee medical care for poor and disabled people instead of reimbursing doctors and hospitals for each service.

Orlando VA Medical Center Faces Nurse Shortage

Jul 27, 2015
WMFE

Officials at Orlando’s VA Medical Center at Lake Nona are struggling with a shortage of nurses and doctors.

The hospital has more than 1,300 vacancies to treat Central Florida’s 400,000 veterans.

The number of veterans continues to rise, along with demand for treatment, spokesman Michael Strickler said.

The University of Central Florida is offering nurses seeking a doctorate degree a loan forgiveness opportunity.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports the school is offering nursing students a loan to cover the cost of online classes. They can then have 85 percent of that debt wiped away if they agree to teach at a college after graduation.

Challenge Looms Over Medical Pot Applications

Jul 27, 2015
WMFE

Even before selecting five nurseries to become Florida's first legal pot producers, Department of Health officials will face a challenge from at least one grower whose application was tossed out because it was late.

The department's Office of Compassionate Use staff rejected two of the 30 applications from nurseries hoping to get chosen as one of the five coveted "dispensing organizations." Both were tossed because they were received after a 5 p.m. deadline following a frenzied scene during a torrential downpour July 8 at the agency's headquarters.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding’s “Spotlight Transparency Tour” made its last scheduled stop Thursday at Miami-Dade College’s Medical Campus.

This meeting included a presentation from Steven Sonenreich, chief executive officer of the private non-profit Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. He said there’s an industry-wide transparency problem when it comes to the rates of services.

State Medical Pot Office Gets New Chief

Jul 23, 2015
WMFE

State health officials on Wednesday announced that Christian Bax will replace Patricia Nelson as the new head of the Office of Compassionate Use, the agency charged with overseeing Florida's medical marijuana law.

Nelson's abrupt departure Friday sent ripples throughout the medical marijuana industry.

Medical Pot Group Submits 100,000 Petitions

Jul 23, 2015
Laurie Avacado / Wikimedia Commons

The group trying to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is making headway in its second push to get the initiative on the ballot.

United For Care shipped more than 100,000 signatures Wednesday to election officials across the state. United For Care campaign manager Ben Pollara says the group still needs to collect more than 500,000 petitions.

André Karwath/Wikimedia Commons

Authorities say a birdhouse prompted a bomb scare outside a Sarasota hospital.

Police say a “suspicious package” was reported Wednesday morning outside Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Traffic in the area was blocked off, and the building was placed on a “diversion” lockdown, meaning no patients were allowed in and out.

Agency for Health Care Administration

A state health care official has criticized a proposed rate increase by private health plans that cover Florida's poorest residents.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the plans, which work with Medicaid, say they need to raise rates by 12 percent to offset the rising cost of prescription drugs and an uptick in doctor's visits.

  Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek disagrees, writing in a letter to the plans Friday that some plans were paying hospitals more than is legally allowed.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Florida is faring poorly on economic factors that influence child poverty, but key health indicators -- from low-birthweight babies to child health insurance rates and teens who abuse drugs and alcohol –  have improved, according to the latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The CEO of the taxpayer-supported Palm Beach County Health Care District resigned Tuesday after a no-confidence vote by the board, the Palm Beach Post reports.   Dr. Ron Wiewora spent 15 years with the health district, which coordinates the county’s safety net health care services for the poor at Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade and the C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics, the Post reports.

Jackson, Molina Officials To Face Hospital Commission

Jul 22, 2015
Lottie Watts / WUSF

A commission formed by Gov. Rick Scott to delve into health-care funding issues will meet Thursday in Miami and hear a presentation from Jackson Health System President and CEO Carlos Migoya and insurance officials.

The Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding will meet at the Miami Dade College Medical Campus and also will hear presentations by David Pollack, president of the insurer Molina Healthcare of Florida, Inc., and Eric Johnson, director of life and health product review at the state Office of Insurance Regulation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Florida Department of Health is kicking off a series of events across the state where students can get immunizations needed for school – for free.

In the first of dozens of events statewide hosted by the Florida Department of Health offering free immunizations for students, the third floor of the Orange County School’s administration building was packed Tuesday with dozens of parents and students waiting patiently for their shot in the arm.

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