The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Technology problems with President Barack Obama's health care website are forcing the administration to extend a federal insurance plan for some of the sickest patients by a month. 

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was supposed to disappear Jan. 1, because starting next year insurers will no longer be able to turn away patients with health issues. The administration said Thursday the extension is meant to smooth the transition to new coverage, easing anxiety for tens of thousands of patients with serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

Polk County Sheriff's Office

LAKELAND - Police say a Department of Children and Families investigator has been charged with sexual battery. 

According to the Lakeland Police Department, Jason Conrad Montgomery, 27, visited the home of a child he was assigned to on Sept. 5. While at the home, he allegedly asked the children in the house to leave and told their mother she "needed" to have sex with him.

Investigators say the woman resisted but felt helpless due to Montgomery's position with DCF. Police say Montgomery sexually battered her on that and another occasion several weeks later.

TALLAHASSEE — The Supreme Court refused Thursday to adopt a state rule reflected in a law that creates restrictions on doctors who can testify during medical malpractice trials, agreeing it would have a chilling effect on the ability to find expert witnesses.

The law was a priority for Republican Senate President Don Gaetz and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. It was designed to help doctors defend themselves in malpractice cases. Critics said it would make it more difficult for victims to seek compensation for injuries caused by doctors' mistakes.

More Floridians are signing up for the new federal health insurance program than residents in any other state, with nearly 18,000 registering over the last two months.

According to figures released Wednesday, nearly 14,500 Floridians signed up under the Affordable Care Act in November. That compares to about 11,000 in Texas.

Florida's November enrollment figures are considerably higher than the 3,500 in October when sign-ups were dwarfed by technical glitches with healthcare.gov. But it's still far less than what officials originally had projected.

Federal health officials, after encouraging alternate sign-up methods amid the fumbled rollout of their online insurance website, began quietly urging counselors around the country this week to stop using paper applications to enroll people in health insurance because of concerns those applications would not be processed in time.

People filling out insurance applications on the federal marketplace may learn they're eligible for Medicaid and their information is being sent to state officials to sign them up. However, states are getting unusable information because of technical problems that continue to plague the website.

Muhammad Mahdi Karim / Wikimedia Commons

JENSEN BEACH, FLA. — State health officials have lifted a dengue fever advisory in Martin County. 

No new cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been reported in the Rio-Jensen Beach area since September. Health officials lifted the advisory on Tuesday.

Over a five-month period, 22 people in the area developed the signs of the illness, which include high fever and aching bones.

A Florida judge on Monday signed off on the use of a new drug the state is using in its executions. 

Circuit Judge Phyllis Rosier from Bradford County ruled that the sedative midazolam hydrochloride does prevent pain when it is administered to condemned inmates during the lethal injection process.

The search continues for two people who were aboard a Mexico-bound jet that crashed after taking off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Two pilots, a doctor and a nurse were on the plane. They had dropped off a patient in South Florida and were returning to Cozumel, Mexico, when the pilot reported an engine failure and attempted to return to the airport.

Coast Guard officials say crews searched throughout the night for the two missing people aboard the medical flight. Those search-and-rescue efforts continued Thursday morning.

SARASOTA — Sarasota police say the husband of former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was found dead of an apparent suicide at the couple's home.

Police spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said Tuesday that Harris' husband, 68-year-old Anders Ebbeson, committed suicide.

Officers were called to the home between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Tuesday.

During a news conference at the police station, Pastor William Hild of Sarasota First Baptist Church confirmed that Ebbeson had taken his own life.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that eight of 10 people will be able to use the government's health care website to sign up for insurance by the end of the month. 

The Obama administration's top health care official was at Florida Technical College in Orlando Tuesday morning making her first of two stops in the state to talk up the Affordable Care Act as fallout of the new law grows. She was visiting Miami's North Shore Medical Center later in the day.

J Pat Carter / AP

MIAMI — A public hunt for Burmese pythons in Florida’s Everglades won’t be repeated next year, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman said Monday. 

Instead, the state is beefing up established programs that train licensed hunters and people who regularly work in areas known to contain pythons to kill or report exotic snakes.

“Certainly our work is not done with pythons,” said wildlife commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson.

Florida's insurance commissioner says the state will follow President Barack Obama's new transitional plan to keep health insurance coverage for Floridians.

Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in a prepared statement Thursday that most health insurers in Florida have already voluntarily extended coverage for affected policyholders through 2014. But for any companies that didn't, his office pledges to work with any company that chooses to continue coverage in accordance with the Obama's transitional policy.

Florida's top legislative leaders are coming out against a push to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced Wednesday that they will ask the Florida Supreme Court to block the proposed amendment.

In a memo Gaetz said after consulting with senate staff he had concluded that the medical marijuana amendment would mislead voters.

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