Associated Press

Thousands of former foster youth are gaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The new law extends Medicaid coverage for former foster youth who have aged out of the system and are under the age of 26.

Florida officials say roughly 10,000 former foster youth are eligible. But they aren't automatically enrolled and need to apply for coverage. The provision is aimed at giving former foster youth the same opportunity for health insurance as their peers who are able to stay on their parent's insurance until they turn 26.

Fort Myers News-Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named a new interim secretary who will take over the state's embattled child welfare agency amid intense scrutiny following hundreds of child abuse-related deaths.

Mike Carroll's appointment to the Department of Children and Families comes on the heels of a scathing series from the Miami Herald highlighting the deaths of 477 children in the past five years.

Speed limits on Florida highways could be raised to 75 miles per hour under a bill the Senate passed.

The Senate voted 27-11 on Thursday to pass the bill, despite concerns by some that it would make roads more dangerous.

The measure would allow the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on interstate and limited access highways from 70 to 75 miles per hour, from 65 to 70 miles per hour on rural, four-lane divided highways and up to 65 miles per hour on other roads. It does not automatically raise the speed limits.

The Florida Senate has passed a bill that would market the state as a destination for medical procedures to national and international audiences.

The measure (SB 1150) passed with a 38 to 0 vote Thursday. It would allow the spending of $3.5 million in state funds to promote Florida's medical facilities and surrounding attractions by Visit Florida, the public-private partnership charged with attracting tourism to the state.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other supporters believe Florida offers a number of high-profile medical services but has done little to promote them.

Litigants filing a case against a nursing home would be limited in whom they can name as defendants under a bill that passed the House.

Parties that are not involved in the direct decision-making for the operation of a facility named in a legal action could not be named as defendants under Senate Bill 670.

The bill passed the House with a 109-7 vote Wednesday. Supporters say the bill is aimed at Tampa lawyer James Wilkes, who has built a successful business suing nursing homes.

Florida physicians would be allowed to double the number of certified medical assistants under their supervision under legislation that passed the House.

The bill (HB 1275) would allow most doctors to supervise eight assistants instead of four. The measure passed 100 to 19.

The measure excludes assistants working for doctors at a dermatological service other than their primary practice location, where the maximum number remains four.

A Florida bill that would forbid insurance companies from refusing to serve or charging higher rates to applicants based on their ownership of a firearm has been sent to Gov. Rick Scott to sign.

The measure passed the House 74-44 on Tuesday. The bill also prohibits an insurer from disclosing information related to the ownership of weapons by a client without the consent of the insured. It extends to both existing and new policies.

AP file photo

Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist set himself up today for another round of attacks over the President’s health overhaul from Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign team – repeatedly calling the nation’s new insurance system “great” during a lunch speech.

Crist appeared at the Capital Tiger Bay Club and almost immediately brought up the attack ads being run by the political committee backing Scott’s re-election, which show video of Crist talking about the health care overhaul and saying, “I think it’s been great.”

JMV0586 / FLICKR

The state's civil rights laws include the protection of women discriminated against for pregnancy, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The opinion finds that the intent of current statute, though not explicitly addressing pregnancy, protects individuals based on gender.

In a 6-1 decision, the majority justices apply their ruling to the case of plaintiff Peguy Delva, who was working for South Florida real estate developer Continental Group when she became pregnant.

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."

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.

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.

www.healthcare.gov

Diabetics beware. Your insurance company is looking for you.

As hundreds of thousands of diabetics get health coverage under the federal law, insurance companies are aggressively targeting this glut of new patients, who are expensive to treat and often lax in taking medications and following their diet.

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.

A Senate bill that would increase the use of telemedicine and establish requirements for health providers who treat patients remotely remains in play in Florida’s Legislature.

A companion bill is also making its way through the House, but that bill doesn't require doctors to have a Florida license — only that they be licensed in their home state and registered in Florida.

While only a small fraction of doctors receive more than $3 million a year from Medicare, Florida accounts for way more than its share -- one in four. And guess which state is home to the doctor who made nearly $21 million?

Those are among the findings of an Associated Press analysis of physician data released Wednesday by the Obama administration, part of a move to open the books on health care financing.

There is one simple way for a Florida medical clinic to avoid being licensed and undergoing an annual inspection: Don't accept insurance.

A bill moving through the Legislature would close that loophole for so-called cash-only clinics, which can escape government oversight because the statutory definition of a clinic is interpreted as an operation that takes third-party insurance.

The bill (SB 746) sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, would require that all medical clinics be subject to licensure, renewal and inspection, whether they accept insurance or not.

A federal judge in West Palm Beach has sentenced a South Florida doctor to more than six years in prison on money laundering charges related to her prescription of millions of oxycodone pills and other narcotics.

Also sentenced in the case Friday, a fellow doctor who received 18 months behind bars on similar charges. Both physicians were part of a broad 2010 investigation into so-called "pill mills".

Florida Blue has appointed Dr. René Lerer as president of the state’s largest insurer.

Lerer's will also be president of the GuideWell group. He will report to CEO Pat Geraghty.

Lerer was previously the chairman and CEO of Magellan Health Services. Magellan is a leading national health care management organization or HMO. Earlier in his career he co-founded Internet HealthCare Group, a health care technology venture fund.

He holds a medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and is board-certified in internal medicine.

Monday is the deadline to sign up for private health insurance in the new online markets created by President Barack Obama’s health care law. So far, about 4 out of every 5 people enrolling have qualified for tax credits to reduce the cost of their premiums.

Here’s what you need to know:

* The deadline is Monday at midnight EDT for the states where the federal government is running the sign-up website, including Florida; states running their own exchanges set their own deadlines.

A House committee has approved a measure that would amend state abortion law, making the ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb through standard medical care the threshold for termination.

The bill (HB 1047) passed the House Health and Human Services Committee by a 12-5 vote on Thursday.

Current Florida law uses the third trimester threshold to prohibit abortion, making anything after the 24th week of pregnancy illegal.

Florida Senate

Alongside Walt Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, South Beach and the Florida Keys, Sen. Aaron Bean wants to give visitors another reason to come to the state: to get some doctoring.

Bean has proposed legislation to require Visit Florida, the public-private partnership charged with attracting tourism to the state, to market Florida as a health care destination.

Roughly 100 nurses, doctors and consumers are flying to Tallahassee to lobby legislators about affordable health care.

The advocates from Miami’s Jackson Health System say chronically-ill patients are falling through the cracks because state lawmakers decided not to expand Medicaid to more than 1 million Floridians.

A 59-year-old uninsured crossing guard with high blood pressure is among those heading to the capitol Wednesday.

Cash-only medical clinics are allowed to skirt the licensing and regulation most other clinics are subject to, a loophole that a Florida lawmaker contends allows some of them to dispense drugs illicitly.

State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, addresses the secrecy in these clinics, which don't accept Medicare or insurance payments, in a measure that sailed through the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on Monday.

After several delays, the troubled Florida Health Choices program on Tuesday launched a website selling niche health products, ones which are separate from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The launch was delayed last month after higher-than-anticipated interest in the website prompted technology experts to retool it. But CEO Rose Naff announced it is open for business with a single vendor and offers five different plans, including a prescription discount card and bundled discount products that includes vision, dental, telemedicine and prescriptions.

Sick of hearing about the health care law?

Plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.

But now is the time to tune back in, before it’s too late.

The big deadline is coming March 31.

By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

Here’s what you need to know about this month’s open enrollment countdown:

ALREADY COVERED? NO WORRIES

Florida legislators from both parties come to the Capitol today agreeing that some of the first bills they'll pass could have saved the life of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl.

The death of Cherish Perrywinkle, who was abducted at a Wal-Mart, and a newspaper investigation into the state's sexual predator civil commitment program have created a rarely seen unity in a process that's more often known for division and political differences.

The troubled Florida Health Choices program has again delayed launching an insurance exchange separate from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

CEO Rose Naff said the interest in purchasing discounted health and dental plans is 10 times higher than they anticipated and she wants to make sure the user experience for the initial launch is perfect. Technology experts are not only retooling the websites front pages, but are now revisiting all the infrastructure.

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