Lottie Watts

Health News Florida Producer/Reporter

Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Floridanow a part of WUSF Public Media.  She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. 

She earned a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where she was the editor and graduate assistant at the Neighborhood News Bureau. She earned a bachelor of science in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University, where she interned at WSTM-TV and WSYR-TV.

If you have a story you want to share, contact Lottie by email or phone: 813-974-8705. 


HNF Stories
11:07 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

State Worker Health Premiums May Change

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford
Credit Florida House of Representatives

Since 2005, monthly health insurance premiums for state workers in Florida have stayed the same.

But a bill making its way through the Florida House could make big changes to the state group employee health plan, which covers more than 300,000 state employees and their families.

Right now, workers pay $50 dollars a month for individual coverage, or $180 dollars a month for their family. That’s a fraction of the cost most people who have health insurance through a private employer.

Read more
HNF Stories
8:22 am
Tue March 31, 2015

Florida Matters: Cancer Town Hall

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 9:16 am


 On April 5, WUSF-TV will air the first part of the new Ken Burns’ documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”  

Read more
HNF Stories
11:42 am
Wed March 25, 2015

What ‘Attack’ Is More Likely: Alligator or Gun?


Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 2:12 pm

Florida is one of 20 states that specifically bans firearms on college campuses, but the Florida Legislature is moving toward allowing guns on campuses.

A group that advocates for concealed carry of firearms on campuses recently told lawmakers that alligator attacks are more common than "attacks" by those with a gun permit.

Read more
8:27 am
Mon March 23, 2015

HealthCare.gov Sends Corrected Tax Forms

Credit HealthCare.gov

The Obama administration said Friday it's making progress trying to correct a tax-form error that affected 820,000 customers of HealthCare.gov.

Administration officials said 740,000 corrected forms have gone out to consumers in the federal insurance marketplace, and another 80,000 will be mailed next week.

Health officials say thousands of consumers are still waiting to receive a corrected tax form detailing the amount of subsidies they received to help pay their monthly premiums.

Read more
HNF Stories
10:13 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

You're Invited! Join WUSF For a Florida Matters Taping

Joshua Rivera has been cancer-free for more than five years. Here, he displays a photo with a Moffitt Cancer Center doctor after they recently completed a triathlon.
Credit Lottie Watts

In the coming weeks, public television stations across Florida will air a new documentary by Ken Burns. "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" aims to tell the complete story of cancer, from the first accounts from ancient Egypt to modern research facilities, and the stories of patients.

Read more
HNF Stories
10:26 am
Sun March 15, 2015

Tax-Time Enrollment Extension Under Way

Extra enrollment time is under way on HealthCare.gov in Florida and the 36 other states that use the federal health insurance marketplace.

Several million Americans hit with new federal fines for going without health insurance are getting a second chance to sign up, and that could ease the sting of rising penalties for being uninsured.

But as the enrollment window reopened on Sunday in Florida and the 36 other states that use the federal health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov, it’s unclear how many know about the time-limited opportunity, let alone will take advantage of it.

Read more
HNF Stories
4:37 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Florida Matters: Previewing 2015 Legislative Issues (Medical Marijuana, Testing and More)

Calvina Fay is the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, which is based in St. Petersburg. She says she doesn't think the bill from state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, will pass.

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 9:06 am


This week on Florida Matters, we are taking a look at some of the issues lawmakers are expected to take up during the upcoming 60-day session.

Read more
HNF Stories
11:55 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Amid Tax Season, Feds Give Extra Plan Enrollment Time

The deadline to buy health insurance coverage for 2015 has come and gone. But some people without insurance are just finding out now that they have to pay a tax penalty, and they're getting another chance to sign up.

Federal health officials announced Friday morning that they’re offering a new, special open enrollment period for consumers who are preparing their 2014 taxes now and figuring out that they owe a tax penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

This extra time will be for consumers to buy coverage for 2015, and avoid paying a penalty when they file their 2015 taxes.

Read more
HNF Stories
5:06 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

FL Has Highest Number of Enrollees

In this Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, navigator Dianelys Dominguez, left, assists Giovanny Vega, 18, of Miami, right, sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami.

Florida has eclipsed California to become the state with the highest number of consumers buying health coverage through new insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, according to federal statistics released Wednesday.

Read more
HNF Stories
6:31 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Last Weekend to Enroll on HealthCare.gov

Ahead of the Sunday deadline to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, the latest enrollment numbers show that close to 1.4 million people in Florida have signed up. That's more than any other state that uses the federal marketplace.

Read more
HNF Stories
8:43 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Florida Matters: Amendment One

Algae clouds part of Rock Springs near Apopka, Fla.
Robin Sussingham

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 11:49 am

Back in November, voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment One, which sets aside millions of dollars for land and water conservation.

This week on Florida Matters, we'll take a look at where exactly that money might go.

Read more
HNF Stories
4:32 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Florida Matters: A Look at Mental Health Funding, Spending

Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Inc.

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 9:20 am

Florida ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to per capita funding for mental health services in the U.S. 

This week on Florida Matters, we'll take a look at just how that's playing out in Florida, along with the push for more funding -- and smarter spending -- for those services.

Read more
HNF Stories
6:15 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

Florida Tops ACA Enrollment: See Why

Florida continues to lead every other state using the federal marketplace health insurance marketplace, with just over 1.3 million who were enrolled or were automatically re-enrolled in a health plan as of Jan. 23.

The high numbers are due to high demand, federal health officials say.

Read more
HNF Stories
9:01 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Sheriff Explains Medical Pot Bill Support

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

The latest push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida is getting support from law enforcement.

Back in November, voters defeated Amendment 2, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, now wants to run the idea by Florida's legislature.

One supporter of this legislative approach is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who tells WUSF News that  while he opposed Amendment 2,  there's more to like in SB 528.

Read more
HNF Stories
1:28 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

GOP Lawmaker Files Medical Marijuana Bill

Credit AP

There's a new push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, and a Republican lawmaker is leading the charge.

Though a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana failed in November, Republican lawmaker state Sen. Jeff Brandes has filed a bill to make medical marijuana legal for Florida residents.

"Amendment Two really was kind of a take-it-or-leave-it offer," said Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. 

Brandes filed SB 528 Monday afternoon.

Read more
8:59 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Corrections Chief: Terminate Health Vendor Contracts?

Pointing to issues with understaffing, increasing numbers of mentally ill prisoners and private health-care providers that aren’t fulfilling their contracts, the new head of the Florida Department of Corrections told state lawmakers the department needs more funding and oversight, the News Service of Florida reports. Julie Jones, the newly appointed prisons chief, shared a wide-ranging agenda that could include terminating contracts with health vendors, News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
In her first appearance before the Legislature since taking the helm of the Florida Department of Corrections two weeks ago, a candid Secretary Julie Jones painted a picture of an understaffed agency embattled by a crumbling infrastructure, skyrocketing numbers of mentally ill prisoners and private health-care vendors who aren't living up to their contract requirements.
HNF Stories
9:01 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Nearly 1.2M in FL Pick Marketplace Plans

Federal health officials say 1,190,922 Floridians have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace since this year’s open enrollment period started.

That figure announced Wednesday is by far the most in any state using the federal health care marketplace and includes first-time enrollees and some who are renewing their insurance this year.

Read more
8:42 am
Wed January 14, 2015

More Scrutiny Coming for DCF Hotline

The call that came in to the Florida Department of Families abuse hotline hours before 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck was killed should have raised alarms, the News Service of Florida reports, but "the hotline staff concluded the report 'does not rise to the level of reasonable cause to suspect.” Now, lawmakers and DCF leaders are looking for more changes at the call center, focusing on the judgment calls made by staff when calls come in. As the News Service reports, it’s not the first time a child’s death has prompted changes at the state abuse hotline; it received $20 million from the Florida Legislature to redesign the call center after the murder of Nubia Barahona in 2011.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
As the Tampa Bay area continues to reel from the death of 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, whose father was charged with dropping her from a bridge last week, state leaders are looking for answers.
HNF Stories
8:00 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Florida Matters Preview: Researchers Trying to Identify Remains Exhumed from Dozier

Glen Varnadoe speaks at a September 2014 news conference at USF announcing the recovery and identification of remains of his uncle from the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys.

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 4:34 pm

For years, claims of abuse, beatings, rapes and murder of students by staff have come from those who survived the Dozier School for Boys,  the now-closed state-run reform school in the Florida Panhandle.

Many families are still wondering what happened to their loved ones, and some are getting answers as researchers from the University of South Florida identify remains that have been exhumed from the grounds of Dozier.

Read more
HNF Stories
7:46 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Plans, Choices Changing in Year Two

Lottie Watts WUSF


Back in November, Phil Ammann of St. Petersburg was figuring out what he was going to do for health insurance. He found himself having to select a new plan, since the plan he bought on HealthCare.gov, was no longer going to be an option in 2015.

He wasn't the only Floridian going back to re-enroll in a plan.  According to federal health officials, 51 percent of the 673,255 Floridians who enrolled during the first weeks of enrollment were returning customers. 

Read more
HNF Stories
8:40 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Florida Matters: Year 2 of Enrollment on HealthCare.gov (LISTEN)

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 9:30 am

It's the second year of enrollment for health insurance plans under the federal health law on HealthCare.gov, the website that Floridians, and people in dozens of other states, use to shop for health insurance.

As of Dec. 15, we have passed a key deadline, the deadline to buy a plan to have coverage that starts Jan. 1. But open enrollment runs through Feb. 15, 2015, and we have gathered a panel to talk about what consumers be doing now if they still need to get health insurance coverage to comply with the federal health law known as Obamacare.

Read more
HNF Stories
7:26 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Deadline for Jan. 1 Health Coverage Gone – Now What?

Jodi Ray is the project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families at USF.

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 10:02 am


The deadline has passed to buy a health plan on HealthCare.gov for coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2015.

Read more
9:16 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Concealed Guns on FL College Campuses?

A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses, the News Service of Florida reports. State Rep. Gary Steube, R-Sarasota said he had already planned to sponsor the bill before last month’s shooting incident at Florida State University. According to the News Service, an attempt to allow concealed weapons on campus was also filed in 2011, but the measure was defeated.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of state colleges and universities. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, said he already planned to sponsor the measure (HB 4005) before a shooting incident last month at Florida State University --- but that the attack, which left three people injured and the gunman dead, helps to make his point.
8:24 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Look Up Antipsychotic Drug Usage at Nursing Homes

It's one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear is not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. You can check NPR's interactive database to see the history of antipsychotic drug usage at nursing homes in your area and how they compare to national and state averages. In Florida, the average is 21.7 percent.
  • Source: Npr
  • | Via: NPR
It's one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear's not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
HNF Stories
9:06 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Federal Health Secretary in FL Today

Credit U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

From a tailgating party with Gator fans in Gainesville to a beer festival in Pensacola, Floridians had plenty of opportunities Saturday to get in-person help signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And as the second year of enrollment kicks off, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell is making a swing through Florida today to help get the word out.  

Burwell will make a stop in Tampa Monday morning at the Navigation Lab at the University of South Florida; she will be in Miami this afternoon.

Read more
8:37 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Judge: Medical Pot Rules Too Vague

Florida’s plan to select nurseries to produce a strain of medical marijuana via lottery was struck down by an administrative law judge Friday, the News Service of Florida reports. The Department of Health’s lottery-system selection and overall framework fails to set up “adequate standards” for the Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana, approved earlier this year by state legislators, according to the News Service.
An administrative law judge Friday struck down a rule proposed by health regulators as a framework for Florida's new medical-marijuana industry, finding multiple flaws in the controversial rule challenged by the state's largest nursery and other growers. Administrative Law Judge W.
HNF Stories
8:42 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Re-Enrolling for Insurance? Expect Change

Phil Ammann, right, with his wife, Margaret.
Credit Lottie Watts / WUSF


Editor's note: Open enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace started on Saturday, Nov.  15. The Health News Florida team is kicking off a series about the second year of open enrollment under the federal health law. First, we take a look at HealthCare.gov, the website that people in Florida and 36 other states use to buy a health insurance plan.  This year, open enrollment runs for three months, until Feb. 15, 2015.

Read more
HNF Stories
7:35 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Can Chefs Aid Fight Against Disease?

Chef Mabel Guzman prepares a salad for a healthy cooking class at the Humana Guidance Center in Zephyrhills.
Lottie Watts WUSF

Health experts say changing your eating habits is one way to avoid becoming overweight or obese.

But anyone who has tried a new diet knows it can be really tough -- even when you're facing serious health consequences. So some people are trying out free cooking classes with a professional chef to help make better choices about what they eat.

Read more
HNF Stories
8:32 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Senate Hopeful Inspired by Medicaid Expansion Loses

  Democratic candidate Judithanne McLauchlan, who was inspired to run for Florida Senate District 22 against incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes because he was the only vote in the Senate against an alternative to Medicaid expansion, lost 57 percent to 43 percent.

During the 2013 Legislative session, Brandes was the lone vote against state Sen. Joe Negron’s alternative to Medicaid expansion. The plan, which would have drawn down $51 billion in federal funding over 10 years under the Affordable Care Act, was ultimately defeated by the Republican-controlled House.   

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HNF Stories
12:02 am
Thu October 30, 2014

Impairment Triggers Wrong-Way Crashes

A woman was killed after driving her car the wrong way on southbound I-75 Sept. 22 and striking a tractor trailer in Pasco County.
Florida Highway Patrol

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading causes of injury and death in the United States. And while wrong-way crashes account for a small percentage of the accidents, more than a dozen people have died in an outbreak of wrong-way driving on Tampa-area roads.

"Unfortunately 2014 has been a very tragic year, especially dealing with the wrong way crashes, and we can't really say why this year we've seen such the number we have,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with Florida Highway Patrol.

Read more