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. 

Ways to Connect

The third year of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is now under way, and this week on Florida Matters (Sunday, Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m.),  WUSF's Carson Cooper takes a look at some of the changes coming for health insurance in 2016 with Florida Covering Kids & Families Project Director Jodi Ray, Tampa health insurance agent Eric Brown and WUSF News Director and Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden.

Enrollment is under way for plans on HealthCare.gov for the third year, and consumers are seeing many changes in the plans companies are offering. It’s not unlike what’s happening to employer-based insurance, which is how about half of all Americans get health care coverage.


For much of this year, Sara Goodrich of Lakeland has gone without health insurance -- despite trying over and over again to complete enrollment on HealthCare.gov.

“For the last six months, all of the agents have been telling me something else is the issue. Resubmit here, there's an address error, it's your birthday, for some reason, that would affect my application, and I just said, I am trying to follow the rules here, and you guys aren't helping,’” she said. 

Florida is on pace to have nearly as many child deaths this year as it did before the overhaul of its child welfare system last year. In about a quarter of those deaths, the Florida Department of Children and Families had prior contact with the family. 


Open enrollment on HealthCare.gov started Sunday, and federal health officials expect the third year of open enrollment to be more challenging than in previous years.

You can be a part of our audience for a special Florida Matters town hall featuring a panel discussion and preview of the new Ric Burns film “Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History.”

Lottie Watts / WUSF

It's open enrollment time for many people who have health insurance through their job, and Florida’s state employees are among those who are thinking about making changes to their plans.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Manatee County, on Florida's west coast, is home to more than 300,000 people.  It's known for its beaches, and if you go just a short distance inland, you'll pass by the iconic fruit stands and working citrus groves.

Heroin overdoses are rising most everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in Manatee County.

In 2013, Florida had more new cases of HIV than anywhere else in the nation. When it comes to the presence of HIV in Florida, the state’s six largest metropolitan areas could be states unto themselves.


In July 2015, emergency responders in Manatee County handled more than 200 heroin overdose calls. And the repeat overdose calls alone are nearly three times what the overall total was for July 2014.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Consider this past weekend a dry run -- in spite of all the rain – for tropical storm and hurricane preparation.  Tropical Storm Erika never made it to Florida, but emergency officials spent much of last week urging people to get ready. 

Lottie Watts / WUSF

County health departments have been testing beach water quality since 2000, and issuing advisories when bacteria levels get too high.

The National Weather Service, as well as rain-weary residents, continue to keep a cautious eye on numerous rivers around West Central Florida.

With more thunderstorms possible the rest of the week, officials are closely monitoring the Alafia River and the Little Manatee River in Hillsborough County and Cypress Creek and the Withlacoochee River in Pasco County.

Planned Parenthood Seeks Injunction After Abortion Allegations

Aug 17, 2015
Lottie Watts / WUSF

Planned Parenthood fired back Monday against allegations that three Florida abortion clinics provided second-trimester abortions without proper licenses, seeking an emergency injunction against the state Agency for Health Care Administration "to protect women's access to safe, legal abortion."

You can join us and be a part of our audience for a special Florida Matters town hall on the rising tide of HIV infection in Florida. 

  Numbers released by federal health officials Thursday show that Florida led in health insurance sign-ups during extra time given during tax season.

More than 30,000 Floridians took advantage of the extended enrollment period that ended April 30. That's the highest among the 37 states that use the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

The extra time was given for people who didn't know -- or understand -- they could face a tax penalty for not having health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Planned Parenthood officials on Thursday said Florida officials misrepresented the abortions being conducted at several of its clinics, and used a 2006 letter from the Agency for Health Care Administration to back it up.

The letter from AHCA General Counsel shows that clinics in St. Petersburg, Fort Myers and Naples were performing legal, first-trimester abortions, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Florida officials say three of the 16 Planned Parenthood facilities inspected last week were performing procedures beyond their licensing authority, and one facility was not keeping proper logs relating to fetal remains.

However, none of 16 clinics were found to be illegally selling or transferring fetal tissue or parts.

Florida's citrus industry is hurting in a big way.  The final report of the growing season by the U.S. Department of Agriculture put Florida orange production for the 2014-15 season at 96.7 million boxes, a drop of 4 percent from last year.

When it comes to children, the definition of homeless includes more children than you may think.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act children and youth who "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence are considered homeless." That means children who are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds -- or doubled-up with relatives or friends  --are homeless, as well as those who stay in shelters, on the street or in abandoned buildings.

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Florida is faring poorly on economic factors that influence child poverty, but key health indicators -- from low-birthweight babies to child health insurance rates and teens who abuse drugs and alcohol –  have improved, according to the latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Back in June, state officials decided to allow bear hunting in Florida for the first time in 20 years. The season will open on Oct. 24, and could last for up to a week. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the hunt is part of its comprehensive bear management plan, and will be open in four of the seven “Bear Management Units.”

Kids Count Florida

The latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that childhood poverty and family unemployment were major factors behind Florida's rank of 37th in the country for child well-being.

Megan Milanese / WUSF

Police in South Florida say an 11-month-old baby died after being left inside a sport utility vehicle parked outside an apartment near Fort Lauderdale.

It is the third Florida child to die after being left in a vehicle this year, according to KidsAndCars.org.  Nationwide, nine children have died from vehicular heatstroke deaths in 2015.

Daylina Miller / Health News Florida

Last month's ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act means more than 1.4 million Floridians will keep their tax subsidies for health plans purchased on the federal marketplace at HealthCare.gov. 

Florida and three dozen other states opted to use the federal marketplace instead of creating their own. That prompted a case that challenged the availability of tax subsidies for people in states that did not create their own marketplaces.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in Florida since Jan. 6, 2015. On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide. What are the impacts of this ruling on Florida’s same-sex couples? And what questions are they asking as they consider tying the knot?

As the pool of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination grows, so do the claims about the candidates.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is featured in an infographic -- or meme -- making the rounds on social media titled “Five Things You Need To Know About Jeb Bush.”

The political group Ultraviolet, which advocates for women's rights, is behind this one.

Lisann Ramos / Health News Florida

If you're talking about older people and sex, you have to talk to Kate GeMeiner.

"I'm also known as Doctor Truth, the Condom Lady," the 85-year-old says.

GeMeiner lives in Broward County, and spends a lot of her time at senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

"And I ask the seniors: How old do you think you are when you stop thinking about sex? And they all say, when you're dead,” she says with a laugh. “Or they'll say things like when the casket is closed or something like that."

Gov. Rick Scott's Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding's "Spotlight Transparency Tour" kicked off Wednesday morning, placing Tampa Bay area executives on the hot seat.