Carol Gentry

Health News Florida Special Correspondent

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four  decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.

After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.  She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996.  She directed a journalism fellowship program at CDC for four years.

Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF  in 2012. 

Contact Ms. Gentry at at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.

Ways to Connect

Editor's note: This story has been updated and contains a correction.

Florida lawmakers should enact more protections for health-insurance consumers and families of workers in small businesses, a state advisory board says.

David and Melanie Rogers

Millions of Floridians -- including 175,000 state workers and their families -- are in health plans that place them at risk for whopping surprise bills after hospital treatment.

American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2014 .

More than 67,000 Florida children gained health insurance coverage last year with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

Two weeks before the federal Health Insurance Marketplace opens for enrollment, a major national company is withdrawing its Florida plans from the exchange.

Florida still has nearly 2.8 million residents who lack health insurance, according to a new report, and 80 percent of them are uninsured for reasons that have nothing to do with Medicaid politics.


A doctor accused of giving a toddler a fatal dose of an unapproved drug was declared “very, very dangerous” at a meeting of the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday. But she escaped serious discipline by agreeing to go away and stay away.


A doctor who says she is “dedicated to the natural treatment of cancer” has been ordered to appear before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday to explain the death of a toddler from an unapproved drug.

Carol Gentry / Health News Florida

Videos accusing psychiatrists and the drug industry of inventing diseases and defrauding the public are the centerpiece of a modest storefront museum that quietly opened this summer in downtown Clearwater.

They suggest that many drugs prescribed for anxiety, depression and other mental-health conditions are responsible for mass shootings and other violence.

Florida Board of Medicine

Orthopedic surgeon Edward Homan, who served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, is the latest high-profile physician to be publicly embarrassed after operating on the wrong side of a patient.

He told the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday that the error shook him to the core.  “It’s like going through a divorce. It’s very painful,” he said. “It’s all you can think about for months.”

Florida Board of Medicine

Orthopedic surgeon Edward Homan, who served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, is the latest high-profile physician to be publicly embarrassed after operating on the wrong side of a patient.

Homan, who served as president of the Hillsborough County Medical Association and was chief of staff at a Tampa hospital for many years, must appear before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday.

Carol Gentry / Health News Florida

When multiple sclerosis patient Meesha Cook suffers a seizure, she doesn’t get to decide where she’ll go for treatment.

If the Brevard County resident is at her job, as a cashier at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Rockledge, paramedics take her down the road to Wuesthoff Medical Center.

If she’s at home in Viera, the next town south, they take her to the hospital there.

Cook would much rather go to Viera Hospital, she says, not only because it is new and Wuesthoff is decades older. The nurses at Viera are nicer, and quicker to respond, said Cook, 42.

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.

While the “Right to Try Act,” which aims to give dying patients the right to try unapproved experimental drugs, is law in Florida as of today, its implementation isn't so clear.

In theory, the Right to Try law allows terminally ill patients access to drugs that have passed first-phase clinical trials and are going through later-stage trials as part of a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration.

Medicaid health plans, which lost $543 million in the first half-year of Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program, have been hoping for major rate relief Sept. 1, when the second year of the program begins.

The Agency for Health Care Administration has proposed a rate increase averaging 6.4 percent for the coming year, ranging from less than 1 percent in the Pasco-Pinellas Counties region to 14 percent in two north Florida regions that cover rural counties.

Florida Senate

Bills that involve state workers' health insurance, nurse-practitioners and hospital regulations died during this week's Legislative special session because the Senate has declined to consider them.

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean said in a statement Monday evening that his colleagues felt there wasn't time to consider major policy changes by Friday, the last day of the special session called to finish work on a state budget.

The issues contained in the House bills require "a thorough and proper vetting," said Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

Florida House of Representatives

A bill that would overturn 40 years of hospital regulation in Florida is one of four contentious issues scheduled for a key House committee this morning and a Senate workshop this afternoon.

HB 31A would abolish the requirement for a state-issued “Certificate of Need” (CON) before building or expanding a hospital. It’s likely to pass the House Health and Human Services Committee this morning, since its sponsor is the committee chairman, Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford.

Humana has sent letters to its Florida customers alerting them that as of July 10, HCA hospitals will no longer be part of the insurer’s network.  

When it comes to insurance disputes, this is the heavyweight division. Humana, based in Louisville, has close to 1 million Medicare patients in Florida plus hundreds of thousands of business and individual customers who sign up through insurance agents or the federal Marketplace for subsidized plans under the Affordable Care Act.

One of Florida’s most experienced OB-GYNs was “grossly negligent” in attempting a vaginal delivery in a risky case that ended in a stillbirth, the Florida Board of Medicine said Friday.

Meeting in Palm Beach Gardens, the board told Dr. Simion Tsinker of Hallandale Beach that he should not have attempted a vaginal delivery in a breech case when the mother had another risk: She had previously had a cesarean section.

Update: The Florida Board of Medicine on Friday recommended that Dr. Simion Tsinker be suspended. More here.

The most controversial issue in childbirth – when to let nature take its course, when to do surgery – underlies a state complaint to go before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday.

Courtesy of Solnay Family

  Two years ago, a little boy with a leaky heart valve was rolled into the operating room at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  Before starting surgery, as required, the team took a “Time Out.”

Doctors and nurses made sure they had the correct patient on the table – Justin Solnay, age 11 – and were planning the right procedure – replacing Justin’s weak aortic valve with a mechanical implant. They ran through the list; check, check and check.

Phallin Ooi / Albumarium

Gov. Rick Scott, who last week asked the state's hospitals to provide a large amount of financial data by Monday, will not get all that he asked for that quickly. He may not get some of it at all.

Hospital executives and lawyers say they want to cooperate with Scott and his newly appointed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which seeks data on services, profits, costs and patient outcomes. 


Jacksonville's public-radio call-in show First Coast Connect on WJCT 89.9 hosted a discussion Monday of Florida's stalemate over health-care funding.

Health News Florida Special Correspondent Carol Gentry took questions from host Melissa Ross and a number of callers, all of them irked at Gov. Rick Scott's standoff with federal officials over whether Florida should accept billions of dollars to cover 800,000 of the state's low-income uninsured.

Here is a transcript:

Florida Tax Watch

Gov. Rick Scott’s call for an investigation of hospital finances, officially issued this week, had a familiar ring to Floridians in the health-care industry.

“My first thought was, ‘Gee, didn’t we just do that?’” said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She was one of those asked to testify at a 2011 hearing held by Scott’s first hospital-financing panel, created shortly after he was sworn into office.


Florida House leaders, who for three years have rejected federal funds to expand health coverage to the poor, brought the legislative session to an early halt Tuesday because of their rock-solid belief that “Medicaid is broken.”

This strongly held position is not new.  It developed in the past when doctors shunned Medicaid because of low pay rates. Even as Medicaid has been transformed and turned over to the private sector, the attitude has persisted and intensified among groups opposed to the Affordable Care Act and all its parts, including Medicaid expansion.

Florida Senate

Florida Medicaid’s request that federal officials send the state $2.2 billion dollars to keep the Low Income Pool subsidies flowing to hospitals won’t work because a vital part is missing, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner says.

The missing link, he said, is the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, known as the FHIX. It is the Senate’s plan to cover up to 1 million of Florida’s low-income uninsured residents by accepting billions of dollars in Medicaid expansion money under the Affordable Care Act.

Health Choices Network

Florida Medicaid, which has been touting its "Managed Medical Assistance" program as a national model, may want to hold off.

The program, which shifts virtually all Medicaid recipients into managed-care plans, underestimated how much their care would cost.

A spreadsheet the Agency for Health Care Administration prepared shows that nearly all HMOs and provider-service networks involved in the program are losing money.

The losses between May and December totaled more than $300 million, and some of the health plans said they could reach $700 million by June 30.

A Tallahassee doctor accused of sexual misconduct by five women patients has turned down a deal with the Florida Board of Medicine that would let him practice if he treats only men.

Family practitioner Edwardo Williams said that limitation – which was imposed as an emergency restriction last August – makes him unemployable.

“Because of the emergency restriction, I was basically unemployable," he said. "I am broke, I have no money to go anywhere else.”

After expressing frustration, the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday accepted a settlement that allows a controversial surgeon to continue in practice without interruption.

Orthopedic surgeon Alfred Bonati, who attracts patients from all over the country to Bonati Spine Institute north of Tampa, had been charged with mishandling four cases, leaving patients with permanent disabilities.

Florida Board of Medicine

On his website, Dr. Alfred Octavius Bonati is described as a pioneer in relief of back pain, creating a type of microsurgery that requires no general anesthesia or hospital stay. 

His ads say he’s done 45,000 of the procedures with a 94-percent success rate. Patients from all over the country offer testimonials on YouTube.

Florida Legislature

 After an emergency trip to the hospital, some patients find a nasty surprise in their mailbox -- bills their insurer didn't pay. Florida law protects some patients from this but not others.

Those in an HMO would see all their bills covered: ambulance, hospital, and doctors. But those who have another type of health insurance could be slapped with astronomical bills. They could have collection agents calling to get whatever their plan didn't pay.