Health News Florida Staff

Health News Florida is the only news publication dedicated to covering health issues in the nation’s third largest state.

We hold health care policy makers, powerbrokers and practitioners accountable. And our independent reporting, online and on public radio, emphasizes how issues of cost, quality and health care access affect all Floridians.

Founded in 2006, Health News Florida joined WUSF Public Media in Tampa in September 2012. In October 2014, Health News Florida expanded its coverage by adding reporters at public radio stations WLRN in Miami, and WMFE in Orlando.

Even more than usual, health-care issues are some of the most important coming before the Legislature this year. At the top of the list is the chance to expand Medicaid, thereby providing coverage to 1 million uninsured Floridians at little to no cost to state taxpayers, the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Other issues that merit attention: improving mental health funding and getting rid of local hospital taxes.

Florida’s Department of Health has ordered Orange Park Medical Center to immediately halt the operation of its trauma center, the Florida Times-Union reports. Meanwhile, Jackson Health System has withdrawn a petition that would force a competing trauma center to shut down, the Miami Herald reports.

Fort Myers News-Press

Retired physician John Agnew takes readers through the history of medical treatments that we now know are ineffective or even harmful. In his column in the Fort Myers News-Press, he wonders what we’ll think of today’s “miracles” years from now.

Florida Current

Even though a repeal on the red-light camera law passed in committee 10-8, the closeness of the vote shows the bill may not last long, the Bradenton Herald reports. While some lawmakers say the cameras are just money-makers, others lawmakers and interest groups insist they save lives.

Researchers with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville have found an abnormal protein that collects in the brains of patients who have Lou Gehrig’s disease or frontotemporal dementia, the Florida Times-Union reports.

For Floridians with the most advanced form of macular degeneration, a mini telescope implant could dramatically help their vision, but it’s only available at one hospital in the state.

It’s ridiculous that hospitals won’t provide patients with something as simple as the total price of a specific procedure, according to an editorial from the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Bay Times

The brother of the woman, who he says was mentally ill, is outraged that the off-duty officers who shot her to death have each been given a Medal of Valor by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Emma Morrison was born last year to a mother who had permanently lost custody of her four other children and both of Emma’s parents had a long history of domestic violence, drug abuse, and arrests. Yet child-service workers sent the newborn home with her mother. It did not end well, the Miami Herald reports.

TLC

An Orlando couple discuss how they take coffee enemas each day -- sometimes more than one -- on the episode of My Strange Addiction that airs tonight, the Tampa Bay Times reports. They declined to demonstrate on camera.

An employee of the Palm Beach County Health Department was arrested for stealing the personal information of 2,800 patients, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Lawmakers think this could be the year they actually pass a ban on texting-while-driving, the Lakeland Ledger reports.

Yesterday’s two-hour hearing is more than lawmakers have given similar proposals in previous sessions, the Ledger reports.

AP

Illegal immigrants aren't supposed to be covered under Medicaid except in emergencies. It turns out that emergency care adds up to a lot of money, as Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News reports.

At his site Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes that the debate over Medicaid expansion often leaves out the human dimension: the early deaths that can be prevented through primary and preventive care.

A 52-year-old guard who worked at an infamous private youth prison for teens has been arrested after six girls reported he sexually abused them, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility, which operated under contract with the state, was closed after a security video showed a staff member slamming a girl against a wall.

Nearly a decade ago Dr. Alan Freedman of Tampa reported a kickback scheme involving a Venice dermatologist and a Tampa pathology lab; now his payday has come. As the U.S. Department of Justice says in a press release, Freedman’s share of the recovery adds up to $4 million.

The dermatologist, Steven J. Wasserman, settled the case with federal authorities by agreeing to pay more than $26 million.

The National Institutes of Health has approved a $7-million, five-year grant to Mayo Clinic Jacksonville to boost its study on Parkinson’s disease, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Too many patients leave the hospital, only to bounce back within a few weeks -- an indication that either they were discharged too soon or they were unable to care for themselves properly. In measures of this revolving-door syndrome, called “readmission,”  Florida hospitals score among the highest and the lowest, as Health News Florida reported last year.

Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to leave mental-health spending where it stands after $24 million in cuts last year troubles advocates for patients, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Scott has proposed a budget of $722.7 million for mental health.

Florida Current

Two kinds of eye doctors -- optometrists and ophthalmologists -- have returned to the Legislature to resume their 30-year-old turf war, which has generated a lot of heat and campaign contributions.

Channel 10 News

One of the largest treatment programs in the world, Narconon, claims to have incredibly high success rates. But it also uses techniques that mental health professionals call “quackery” and caused, according to one family, the death of their daughter, 10 News in Tampa reports.

Broward Bulldog

Broward Health Commissioner David Di Pietro said the healthy system could owe up to $100 million in civil liability related to a federal investigation, according to the Broward Bulldog.

Florida Senate

After hearing complaints from “safety net” and teaching hospitals, the Senate’s Health Policy Committee is asking the Agency for Health Care Administration to give more options for implementing a new Medicaid payment plan. Right now, the new diagnosis-related group payment formula would mostly benefit for-profit hospitals, Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog reports.

After he fired six shots in his home -- aiming at rats, he said --76-year-old Thomas Judd of Tampa was “Baker Acted,” taken to a crisis center for an involuntary mental health examination. As usual, he was found to be suffering from schizophrenia.  His guns were taken away.

But now Judd has his guns back, after a proceeding in Hillsborough Circuit Court, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

CBS Miami

A team from the American College of Surgeons says Florida shouldn’t approve any more trauma centers, at least not until there’s a better way to determine whether they’re needed, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

After hearing from the independent panel, Surgeon General John Armstrong didn’t say whether he would take the advice. The panel will share more of its recommendations with the state in about eight weeks.

Jacksonville.com

For insurers and the agents who sell their products, this is a time of great uncertainty, of racing to prepare for something that remains ill-defined: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By October, if they want to be available for sales to individuals and small firms, insurers must be prepared to market themselves on an online website, even as they continue to market to large employers. Agents hope to figure out a role for themselves where they can still make a living.

WellCare Health Plans announced Tuesday that the state has approved expansion of its Staywell Medicaid plan into an additional 25 counties.  The expansion places WellCare in the position of being the only Medicaid managed care contractor offering plans in all 67 Florida counties, the company said.

Some of the counties that will be added have not previously offered a managed-care plan to Medicaid patients, the release said.

The Tampa-based company offers two Medicaid HMOs in Florida: Staywell and HealthEase.

No state income tax. Warm weather. Lots of fitness trainers. And cash-only medical clinics with no state regulation.

Florida's pediatricians are gaining national recognition for their one-sided struggle against the National Rifle Association and the "Privacy of Firearm Owners" law signed in 2011. That law forbade physicians from asking patients whether they have guns and ammunition at home.

Family practitioner Bernd Wollschlaeger of Miami, pediatricians Judy Schaechter and Tommy Schechtman,  the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical societies sued Gov. Rick Scott soon after he signed the bill.

The Department of Health gave its approval to two HCA-owned trauma centers on the same day it held a workshop to discuss the impact of such facilities on the community.
 

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