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 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.


The next White House Conference on Aging - which is aimed at finding new ways to improve the lives of older Americans - will take place July 13 in Washington, D.C.
 

Health care spending was the defining issue of the 2015 Florida legislative session. 

The Florida House and Senate were miles apart on the issue, and the disagreement sent the regular session to a screeching halt earlier this month.

On Monday, lawmakers will return to Tallahassee for a special session to try to pass a budget, but lawmakers appear no closer to an agreement on health spending, especially when it comes to an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

The 2015 Florida legislative session came screeching to a halt three days early, when House and Senate lawmakers could not agree on health care funding.

The House wants no part of Medicaid expansion. The Senate has warmed up to the idea of a type of expansion that would steer federal dollars into private healthcare plans. They'll try to get this worked out during a special session that’s scheduled to begin Monday, June 1.

One of the arguments against Medicaid expansion is that Florida takes billions more from Washington, D.C.  than it gives - and that the money being offered to Florida isn't Florida's to take.

Megan Milanese / WUSF

Authorities say a 16-month-old north Florida girl died when her father left her in the car after forgetting to drop her off at day care.

It's the second hot car death reported in the nation in 2015, and the first in Florida. 

Columbia County Sheriff's deputies responded to a 911 call Tuesday afternoon and found the child was unresponsive.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement identified the child's mother as Wendy Kwon, an assistant state attorney, and her father as Young Kwon, an assistant public defender.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Federal health officials have awarded more than $5 million in grants to 10 health centers in Florida to serve newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act.

The grants are expected to serve about 46,000 patients, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The “Access Point” grants are going to:

Banyan Community Health Center, Inc.                 Miami                   $703,602

U.S. Navy

 

 The latest Hospital Safety Scores released by the not-for-profit watchdog Leapfrog Group show almost half of general, acute-care hospitals in Florida earned an A.

The group calculates the grades twice a year on using data on errors, injuries, accidents and infections, and posts the results in a searchable database.

Out of the 165 Florida hospitals they graded, 77 got an A.

Thursday, April 30 is the last day for people in Florida and the three dozen other states that use the federal health insurance marketplace to buy a health insurance plan on HealthCare.gov.  

Federal health officials had extended enrollment for a few weeks under a for people who didn't know they could face a tax penalty for not having health coverage.  

The penalty for going without insurance in 2015 is $325 dollars, or 2 percent of your income, whichever is greater.  

People in Florida and the three dozen other states that use the online federal insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov have a little time left to shop for health insurance.

This special enrollment period for insurance plans under the federal health law runs through Thursday, April 30.

It’s for people who didn't know -- or understand -- that they could face a tax penalty for not having health coverage, according to federal officials.

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.

  

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

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.

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.

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.

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