Carol Gentry

Health News Florida Editor

Carol Gentry, founder and editor 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.

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

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HNF Stories
1:59 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Doctor Faces Discipline for Sexting

Tuan Kishfran Imran Dean
Credit TriCounty Physicians LLC

A doctor who got into trouble for sexting at work will be called before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday to explain why he should be allowed to keep practicing.

Dr. Tuan Kishfran Imran Dean, a family practitioner in The Villages, was working at a Doctor Today walk-in clinic in Lakeland when he displayed inappropriate conduct in August 2011, according to Department of Health records.

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HNF Stories
8:01 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Behind the Scenes at FMA

Lawrence Floriani, M.D.
Credit Dr. Larry Floriani

The Florida Medical Association surprised many this week when word came that its House of Delegates embraced a resolution calling for the legislature to expand Medicaid, the state-run program that's supposed to cover low-income people.

The money to do so, an estimated $51 billion over 10 years, had already been set aside by the federal government to begin in January this year, but the state House of Representatives refused to take  it. The FMA delegates want the Legislature to change its position.

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HNF Stories
10:45 am
Mon July 28, 2014

FMA Supports Medicaid Expansion

Dr. Aaron Elkin
Credit DrElkinMD.com

  The Florida Medical Association's House of Delegates overwhelmingly adopted a resolution supporting Medicaid expansion to cover uninsured low-income adults at FMA's annual meeting on Sunday, according  to doctors who were there.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated with the statement from FMA.)

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HNF Stories
7:39 am
Fri July 25, 2014

FL Medicaid Overhaul Dings WellCare

Credit Tampa Tribune

WellCare Health Plans, Inc. saw its stock price plunge more than 20 percent at one point on Friday after announcing its second-quarter net loss of $7.5 million, due mainly to high medical expenses in connection with the expensive rollout of Florida Medicaid's statewide managed care program.

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HNF Stories
2:18 am
Thu July 24, 2014

FL #1 in Rebates; Blue Owes $20M

Insurers must pay $41.7 million in rebates to Florida individuals and employers this summer, an amount that far exceeds refunds in any other state, according to a federal report released Thursday. 

Companies affiliated with Florida Blue in Jacksonville -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Health Options Inc. -- owe a total of $20 million, nearly half of the total.

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HNF Stories
11:04 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Appeals Courts Split on Subsidies

US Court of Appeals, Washington, DC
Credit US Court of Appeals

An appeals court in Washington, D.C. issued a decision Tuesday that would wipe out an estimated $4.8 billion a year in subsidies to Florida individuals and families who signed up for a health plan on the federal health marketplace this year. That would make health insurance unaffordable to most of the nearly 1 million Floridians who enrolled.

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HNF Stories
8:58 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

$4.8B in FL Subsidies at Stake

Credit commons.wikimedia.org

A court case challenging the Affordable Care Act's subsidies for plans sold on the federal marketplace could have an outsize effect on Florida, according to a new analysis.

A ruling is expected any day on Halbig v Burwell from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. If the government loses and further legal maneuvers fail, the 34 states that rely on the federal exchange would see a $36-billion loss of subsidies, three Urban Institute researchers project.

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HNF Stories
11:00 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

How HMOs Hid Rates on State Site

Health News Florida Editor Carol Gentry
Credit Lottie Watts

How much will it cost Floridians to buy coverage next year on Healthcare.gov? Lots of people want to know, but the insurers are keeping the prices secret in an unprecedented way.

(Editor's note: This is a conversation between WUSF All Things Considered Host Craig Kopp and Health News Florida Editor Carol Gentry.)

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HNF Stories
7:53 am
Tue July 15, 2014

FL in Last Place for ACA Grants

Florida ranks last in the country in per-person funding from the Affordable Care Act, a new study shows, and that doesn’t even include the billions of dollars the state is forfeiting by saying no to Medicaid expansion.

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan performed the analysis of ACA grant totals between the time the law was signed in March 2010 and the end of September 2013.

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HNF Stories
10:48 am
Thu July 10, 2014

State Blasts Insurers for Hiding Rates

Credit Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

Florida health plans were wrong to use a state "trade secrets" law to hide their rate proposals from the public, the Office of Insurance Regulation says in letters to 15 insurers. 

In what became a nationwide embarrassment for Florida, insurers falsely placed a "zero" on the public rate-filing form for 2015 in the run-up to the June 27 reporting deadline. OIR officials say their intention was apparently to hide their actual rate proposals from one another, but it backfired when Health News Florida reported on the unusual phenomenon.

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HNF Stories
4:20 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Lawyers, Patients Fight Cost of Records

Barbara Allen, lead plaintiff in records suit.
Credit WUSF/CGentry

Doctors used to give patients a copy of their medical records for free. But that service is waning, as today's large group practices shed the hassle and risk by outsourcing the record-handling.

For-profit companies in the new "release of information" or "disclosure-management" industry include HealthPort Technologies LLC in suburban Atlanta and Bactes Imaging Solutions LLC in San Diego.

They say it is costly to process record requests in compliance with patient privacy laws. In Florida, they get $1-a-page for hospital records, whether the copies are on paper or digital.

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HNF Stories
8:10 am
Tue July 8, 2014

$267M Demand Is Not Coercion: FHA

Bruce Rueben, president of the Florida Hospital Association
Credit WFSU.org

Federal health officials are issuing audit reports and rushing to collect $267 million in alleged overpayments to some Florida hospitals to close the books on an old program, says Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben.

FHA argues against a rush to judgment, saying some of the audits are still preliminary. Also, the group says, it’s unreasonable to expect hospitals to repay millions of dollars in one year. 

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HNF Stories
11:16 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Officials Shrug Off Medicaid Jobs Report

Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island

If President Obama was hoping the lure of 63,800 jobs would sway Florida's Republican officials to expand Medicaid, he was mistaken.

Neither the governor nor legislative leaders had anything positive to say about the estimate by the Council of Economic Advisors released by the White House on Wednesday. The report offered a state-by-state forecast of the number of jobs that could be expected from expansion of health insurance to the low-income uninsured.

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HNF Stories
8:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Rebel Urologist Faces Trial; FDA Panel to Review Device

Dr. Ronald Wheeler
Credit YouTube.com

A Sarasota urologist who diagnoses prostate cancer in an unusual way and treats U.S. patients at a clinic in Cancun will not agree to a suspension from practice.

Dr. Ronald Wheeler has rejected an offer from the Florida Board of Medicine to let him keep his medical license if he agrees to a year of suspension and an $80,000 fine, according to the Department of Health.

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HNF Stories
5:39 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

State Backtracks on Rate Proposals

The information posted by health insurers on a state website indicating they would not seek a rate increase for 2015 in Florida's individual market was "incorrect" and has been taken down, the Office of Insurance Regulation said late Tuesday afternoon.

Unfortunately, the false information came to light only after Health News Florida published an article on Tuesday with the headline: "No Rate Increase? Can It Be?"

The answer, it turns out, is no.

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HNF Stories
10:54 am
Tue June 24, 2014

No Rate Increase? Can It Be?

Update: Late Tuesday, the state Office of Insurance Regulation said information posted about 2015 individual market health insurance rates was incorrect and has been taken off its website. See more.

Something unprecedented may be unfolding in Florida's individual health-insurance market: None of the nine companies that have filed their 2015 rate requests so far wants an increase.

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HNF Stories
10:54 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Florida Premiums Average $68/Mo.

Floridians who bought health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace and received tax credits got a pretty good deal, according to federal data.

They spent an average of $68 a month, considerably less than the national average of $82, the charts show. (See page 23 in the report)

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HNF Stories
12:17 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Verdict in Lab Battle: $15M

Credit

Millennium Laboratories, a San Diego company that specializes in urine testing nationwide, should pay its major competitor almost $15 million in damages for  unfair business practices and violations of federal anti-kickback laws, a Tampa federal jury announced late Monday.

That competitor is Ameritox Ltd., which has headquarters in Baltimore. Ameritox brought the civil case against Millennium Labs in 2012 after state and federal authorities did not intervene, its attorneys said during the two-week trial.

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HNF Stories
6:59 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Drug-Test Labs Battle in Court

A federal jury in Tampa began deliberations Friday afternoon on a lawsuit by Ameritox Ltd. against Millennium Laboratories, two significant players in the drug-testing business.

The eight jurors, whose verdict form is a whopping 96 pages, must decide whether Millennium's sales gimmick of giving doctors free urine specimen test cups violates laws on health fraud.

They must weigh accusations that Millennium broke not only federal kickback laws but also rules involving unfair and deceptive business practices in Florida and five other states.

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HNF Stories
11:02 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Medicaid Plans to Get Extra Drug $

Credit Courtesy of Gilead Sciences Inc.

Florida Medicaid officials have decided to give an extra payment to managed-care plans to cover the unexpected cost of a new treatment for a common viral illness, Hepatitis C.

The Agency for Health Care Administration intends to make a "kick payment" to plans to help them cover the drug Sovaldi, Press Secretary Shelisha Coleman said. That's the term used when an agency gives additional payments beyond the contracted amount because of unforeseen circumstances.

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HNF Stories
9:52 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Doctor Suspended for Deception

Teresita Garrido
Credit Family of Teresita Garrido

A Miami physician who mishandled a case and then altered the medical records to cover it up has  been given a second chance by the Florida Board of Medicine.

The board, which met in Tampa on Friday, revoked the license of Dr. Peter V. Choy, but minutes later  reconsidered and voted to reinstate the license, instead suspending it for six months.  A do-over on a revocation case is so rare that several longtime observers said they could not recall ever seeing one before.

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HNF Stories
10:36 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Patients Gouged on Copies of Medical Records: Lawsuit

Credit Barry Gutierrez, NPR

Patients across Florida have been overcharged more than $1 million for their medical records over the last five years by out-of-state companies that handle copying for Florida doctors, according to a class-action suit pending in Hillsborough  County.

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HNF Stories
10:20 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Doctor Faces Board in Fatal Overdose

Dr. Betty Jo Carter, who practices medicine out of her home in Ruskin, will come before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday on charges of speeding the death of a dying man with big doses of morphine and other painkillers.

That’s what the autopsy said killed Gary Lazar, who was suffering major organ failure, but Carter – who was Lazar’s friend and slept at his house to take care of him in his final days -- denied overmedicating him on purpose. He died in February 2012.

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HNF Stories
11:17 am
Tue May 20, 2014

FL Medicaid Limits Hep C Drug

Sovaldi, from Gilead Sciences

(Editor's note: This article contains two corrections.)

Florida's Medicaid agency has set up guidelines for use of hepatitis C drugs that will limit their required use to only the most severe cases, sparing health plans from some expense during the rollout of the Statewide Managed Assistance Program.

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HNF Stories
11:01 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Rebel Urologist in Trouble With State

Dr. Ronald Wheeler with his book, Men at Risk.
Credit YouTube.com

When a man gets a worrisome PSA result, his doctor is likely to schedule him for a prostate biopsy. It’s the standard of care.

But if he goes on the Internet and looks around, he may get very different advice. He may find a YouTube video starring a Sarasota urologist who says biopsies are old-fashioned. Barbaric, even.

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HNF Stories
12:04 am
Wed May 14, 2014

FL Still C-Section Hotspot

Harvey Balls rate quality.
Credit Wikipedia.org

In a new study on obstetrics and patient safety, Consumer Reports has given 50 Florida hospitals the worst possible rating: the dreaded black dot. That's almost half of the hospitals that have obstetrics services in the state.

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HNF Stories
9:13 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Who Won on Health Issues? The Usual

The 2014 legislative session -- while ignoring the $51 billion offered from the federal government to insure the poor -- took up other substantial health issues.  Very few passed.

WUSF's All Things Considered host Craig Kopp has been wondering what all the talk about "trains" was about during the legislative session that ended last week. He talked with Health News Florida editor Carol Gentry.

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Health News Florida
10:59 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Taxpayers Good to WellCare, Humana

Taxpayers have been good to Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans Inc., and they're about to get even more generous. 

In WellCare's case, the benefactor is Medicaid. But Humana, another company that is big in Florida and is releasing earnings, apparently is benefiting from enrollment through the Affordable Care Act, as Forbes reports.

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HNF Stories
4:41 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Which Bills Crashed & Burned?

Some people wanted the big bill of the 2014 legislative session to be Medicaid expansion, accepting federal funds to cover the low-income uninsured. Indeed, interfaith groups were still running phone banks and staging demonstrations up to Friday, the last day of the session.

But it was clear even before the 2014 Florida Legislature opened two months ago the measure would be ignored. Instead, lawmakers spent a lot of time debating ways to stretch the supply of primary-care providers as demand increases.

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HNF Stories
1:07 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Biggest Success? DCF Overhaul

The 2014 Florida Legislature passed a number of bills relating to health care, most of them modest in scope. 

But at least one that passed will probably save lives: the Child Welfare Act, which in part responds to the deaths of 477 children who were supposed to be under the protection of the Department of Children and Families.

The DCF overhaul had already begun before the session, but was intensified after the Miami Herald published the series Innocents Lost.

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