Mary Shedden

Health News Florida Editor

Mary Shedden is editor of Health News Florida. Her assignment since arriving at WUSF in 2013: distill policy and science so it makes sense on a personal level.

In the past 20 years, she's told the stories of retired pro athletes in chronic pain, children poisoned by toxic toys, and seniors who nearly overdosed on prescription drugs. 

Her work at The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com, Florida Today and the Gainesville Sun have been honored by professional organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press Sports Editors, and the Florida Society of News Editors.

A graduate of the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, Mary has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1999.

Contact Mary at 813-974-8636 on Twitter @MaryShedden or by email

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HNF Stories
5:17 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Enrollment Targets Uninsured Hispanics

CuidadodeSalud.gov

Luis Alejandro Larrorte has lived the past two decades in the United States -- all of it without health insurance.

But the 56-year-old who sells cable satellite plans as a contractor was diagnosed with eye cancer. And the Pembroke Pines resident was eager to sign up on the federal healthcare marketplace.

But the Columbian native - who now is a U.S. citizen - says a lot of the insurance and medical terms involved didn't translate well into the Spanish-language website.

Read more
HNF Stories
8:39 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Elders Trapped By Guardianship Law

Marie Winkelman, 89, had her rights removed a year ago at the request of her stepson-in-law, and is bewildered by the idea that she no longer has access to her own finances.
Thomas Bender Sarasota Herald-Tribune

 Florida's elder guardianship program is meant to help vulnerable elders.

But Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter Barbara Peters Smith recently published a series that shows the rapidly expanding system run in Florida’s probate court system ignores the rights of some. She spoke with Health News Florida Editor Mary Shedden about the year-long investigation.

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8:21 am
Tue December 16, 2014

DOH to Draft Charlotte’s Web Rules Again

It’s back to the drawing board for the Florida Department of Health and its attempt to create rules for its non-euphoric medical-marijuana law, the News Service of Florida reports. Last month, an administrative law struck down the proposed rules for the drug known as Charlotte’s Web. So, DOH will hold a Dec. 30 workshop in Orlando to restart the rules drafting process, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
The state Department of Health will not appeal an administrative law judge's decision that struck down a proposed framework for regulating Florida's new medical-marijuana industry. Nathan Dunn, a department spokesman, said in an email Monday that the agency will hold a workshop Dec. 30 in Orlando as it again tries to develop a rule.
HNF Stories
3:53 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Deadline for Jan. 1 Coverage Nears

Monday’s an important deadline for Floridians shopping for insurance on HealthCare.gov.

Nearly a million residents signed up on this federally run marketplace last year. Now those wanting to re-enroll -- or sign up for the first time for coverage -- must select a plan by Monday if they want to be covered starting at the beginning of the New Year.

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8:17 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Drug Test Fight Costing Taxpayers $307,000

The state has spent more than $307,000 in legal costs to defend a law requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests, the News Service of Florida reports. The 2011 law has been found unconstitutional by several courts, the most recent being the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Taxpayers are on the hook for at least $307,000 and perhaps much more to cover legal expenses in Gov. Rick Scott's repeated failed efforts to convince courts that a onetime campaign pledge to drug-test welfare recipients is constitutional.
HNF Stories
9:01 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Half of Exchange Signups Return Customers

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida.
Credit USF Magazine

It's been two weeks since HealthCare.gov opened for a second year of business. And a leader in Florida's signup efforts says about half who have visited so far are return customers.

Those renewing their coverage seem most interested in the kind of medical coverage they can get and are not just selecting the same policies, Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida, said Wednesday. 

She says cost of premiums seems to come second.

Read more
8:51 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Interim Leaders at DCF, DJJ Remain in Flux

The status of interim leaders at two state agencies remains unclear as Gov. Rick Scott prepares to start a second term, the News Service of Florida reports. Since the election last month, secretaries for the Department of Corrections and Department of Environmental Protection have announced their departures. It’s not uncommon for these posts to change during a governor’s second term. The News Service reports that Scott remains quiet about how he will handle the interim posts at the Department of Children and Families and Department of Juvenile Justice. Mike Carroll has been in the temporary post at DCF since May. Christy Daly has served in her position at DJJ since July.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
As he gets ready to start a second term, Gov. Rick Scott will have to choose leaders for the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Both agencies are operating under interim secretaries, and Scott's choice at the Department of Children and Families will be particularly scrutinized.
8:36 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Court: Convicted Eye Doc Can Practice

Attempts to prevent Broward County ophthalmologist Alan Mendelsohn from practicing medicine as he serves time in a halfway house have been blocked by a panel of judges, the News Service of Florida reports. The Department of Health had asked to block the Florida Board of Medicine’s decision to reinstate Mendelsohn’s license following his federal conviction in a political-corruption probe. The 1st District Court of Appeal denied the request last week, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Former state Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican who was not seated in the House last month because of a long-running election dispute, has taken the first formal step toward returning to the Legislature. Grant filed paperwork last week to run in a special election in House District 64.
HNF Stories
1:33 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Small Firms May Not Want to SHOP

Brooke and Andrew Lee, owners of Roundhouse Creative Studios in St. Petersburg, buy their own health insurance. They are interested in the costs for a small business plan that could include their one fulltime employee.
Mary Shedden/WUSF

Brooke and Andrew Lee can't imagine being without health insurance.

So for the past seven years, that's meant digging deep into the earnings of their video production agency in St. Petersburg. It’s expensive, but Brooke Lee says the alternative is worse.

“Even though costs are high, I’ve just always been somebody who has health care. And I would be really nervous… for the unknowns to happen, some major accident or health problem that would put us out of business and pretty much ruin everything we’ve worked so hard on if we didn’t have health insurance,” she said.

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HNF Stories
4:03 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

HHS Secretary Visits FL, Defends ACA

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell speaks with a woman enrolling for health insurance Monday at the University of South Florida enrollment event in Tampa.
WUSF

The nation's top health official says the ongoing legal dispute over the Affordable Care Act won't stop people who want insurance from signing up.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced it will consider a challenge to the law, which could eliminate subsidies for individuals who purchased plans in Florida and dozens of other states via the online marketplace known as HealthCare.gov.

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HNF Stories
5:39 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Here to Help You Navigate ACA Year 2

Credit Megan Milanese

Open enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace starts on 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.

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HNF Stories
8:35 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Time For a HealthCare.gov Test Drive

Credit HealthCare.gov

Floridians who buy their own insurance can start shopping for 2015 plans on the federal marketplace on Saturday, but a sneak peek of prices is available now.

HealthCare.gov -- the website for residents in Florida and 36 other states -- opened for window shoppers over the weekend. In Florida, 10 different companies offer plans.

Read more
8:23 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Court Backs AHCA On Medicaid Payments

An appeals court says Florida Hospital Orlando should repay more than $22,000 in Medicaid payments it claimed in the care of a 3-year-old child with leukemia, the News Service of Florida reports. The judges said Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration was justified in requesting repayment in the case that centers around the state’s determination of whether care is a “medical necessity,” according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
An appeals court Thursday sided with the state Agency for Health Care Administration in a dispute about whether Florida Hospital Orlando was paid too much for treating some Medicaid patients. The agency in December issued an order requiring the hospital to repay $22,138 in Medicaid overpayments, along with a $500 fine and $7,635 in costs.
8:30 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Court Told Workers’ Comp Fees Are 'Crazy'

Florida’s Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of the way attorneys in workers-compensation cases are paid, the News Service of Florida reports. Attorneys who represented a South Florida man injured in 2009 told justices that the rules governing attorney fees are “crazy” and translate to less than $2 an hour for their work, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
In an issue watched closely by business, labor and trial-lawyer groups, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed the constitutionality of limits on attorneys' fees in workers-compensation insurance cases. Justices heard arguments in a case that stemmed from injuries suffered in 2009 by a South Florida man, Marvin Castellanos, during an altercation with another worker at their employer, Next Door Company.
HNF Stories
7:47 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Virtual Kiosks Take Care Outside Clinics

HealthSpot

There was a time when you got sick, you waited to see the family physician.

But then came the "Doc In A Box" clinics, where you went without an appointment, at night and on weekends. And it only got easier when mini-clinics began popping up in neighborhood pharmacies.

Well, these convenient medical visits are taking the next step. Clinic "kiosks" will soon be connecting Floridians and physicians via video screens and interactive tools.

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HNF Stories
12:11 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Crist Loses, Says There's 'Common Ground' on Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 8:21 am

 Democratic challenger Charlie Crist has conceded the Florida election to incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

In St. Petersburg, Crist had little to say when he conceded the race just after 11 p.m. He thanked supporters and brought up just one specific issue debated during the caustic campaign: Medicaid expansion.

Read more
9:03 am
Mon November 3, 2014

FL Has No Right to Inspect VAs: Feds

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration doesn’t have the Constitutional grounds to inspect VA facilities, the News Service of Florida reports. In response to an AHCA lawsuit asking to inspect VA hospitals, the feds cited the “Supremacy Clause,” which says the state doesn’t supercede the authority of the federal government. Inspectors sent by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over the summer had been turned away at Florida VA hospitals, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has fired back at Gov. Rick Scott's administration in a legal battle about whether state health officials should be able to inspect VA medical centers. Attorneys for the federal agency filed a document last week arguing that a lawsuit launched by the state Agency for Health Care Administration should be dismissed on constitutional grounds.
9:18 am
Thu October 30, 2014

State: Consider Managed Care in Lawsuit

State agencies wanting to introduce new evidence into a nine-year-old fight over Florida Medicaid is being criticized by children’s advocates, the News Service of Florida reports. The lawsuit led by the Florida Pediatric Society claims the state does not provide adequate care for kids in the Medicaid program. The Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida Department of Health filed documents asking that the state’s new managed care system should be considered, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
With a federal judge possibly close to ruling in the case, plaintiffs' attorneys are objecting to a state attempt to offer new evidence in a lawsuit about whether Florida has adequately provided care to children in the Medicaid program. The lawsuit, which has been spearheaded by the Florida Pediatric Society, was filed in 2005.
HNF Stories
12:32 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Most FL Plans Shine in Star Ratings

Credit U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Just a handful of Florida Medicare Advantage plans offered for 2015 received below average scores in a federal quality rating system, a breakdown of data by Avalere Health shows.

Read more
HNF Stories
9:02 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Watching Health News, for You

For years, Health News Florida has been sharing the state’s top health news with you, via our daily eAlert. We wake up early every day, keeping tabs on the latest developments on stories from Miami to Marianna, and Tallahassee to Tampa.

Read more
7:57 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Prisons Chief: Changes Will Take Time

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews says “it's unfair that the agency as a whole is painted under the same umbrella of all being corrupt and non-transparent,” the News Service of Florida reports. In a long interview on his leadership, Crews explains that it will take time to change a culture of fear and intimidation that’s led to the investigation of 100 suspicious inmate deaths, according to News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Gov. Rick Scott tapped Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews two years ago to oversee an agency that is responsible for more than 100,000 prisoners and supervises nearly as many people in the community. Crews, who has a bachelor's degree in criminology from Florida State University, started his law-enforcement career 30 years ago as a correctional officer at Apalachee Correctional Institution.
HNF Stories
12:50 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Key to Pot Vote: Turnout, Not Political Party

AP

Need an example of how incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, are trying to attract every possible vote?

Ask them about medical marijuana. Neither candidate avoids the issue. But they do play it safe.

  “I’m going to vote against it. But it’s going to be on the ballot. All the citizens of the state have the right to vote whichever way they think,” Scott told Tampa’s Fox 13 News this past June.

And there’s Crist, no stranger to the well-rehearsed reply.

Read more
2:18 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Medical Malpractice Ruling Backs Doctors

A ruling on the ongoing challenge to Florida's medical malpractice law is a win for groups such as the Florida Medical Association, Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida reports. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Friday says changes made in 2013 to the "ex parte communications" portion of the law does not violate patient privacy, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
A federal appeals court Friday upheld part of a controversial Florida medical-malpractice law, saying it does not violate requirements aimed at protecting patient privacy. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling last year by a Tallahassee federal judge.
8:35 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Hospital Lawsuit's Legal-Fee Issues Persist

A legislative decision to order Lee Memorial Health System to pay $15 million to a severely disabled boy's family continues to be challenged by the child's attorney, the News Service of Florida reports. Legislators in 2012 passed a bill revoking the Southwest Florida public hospital sovereign immunity in this case, but said attorney's couldn't receive more than $100,000. That issue will be debated on Oct. 28, before the 4th District Court of Appeals, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
An appeals court this month will weigh the constitutionality of a 2012 legislative decision that limited fees for attorneys who represented a severely disabled child in a lawsuit against a public hospital system.
HNF Stories
12:00 am
Wed October 8, 2014

PUP Owners Want $500M from Accountants

Dr. Sandeep Bajaj
Credit Florida Accountable Care Services

The majority owners of a now-defunct Medicare Advantage plan say they were duped by the plan’s accountants, the ones they claim are responsible for the company’s collapse, a new federal lawsuit filed in Orlando says.

Dr. Sandeep Bajaj and Dr. Rohini Bajaj claim the national accounting firm McGladrey LLP is responsible for the financial ruin and liquidation of Physicians United Plan Inc., which had served about 50,000 Floridians until the state took over its operations this summer.

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8:12 am
Tue October 7, 2014

Elder Ombudsman Settles Lawsuit

The former ombudsman for Florida's long term care community has settled a lawsuit against the state's Department of Elder Affairs, the News Service of Florida reports. Brian Lee, a vocal advocate of resident's rights, had been on the job seven years when he was dismissed in 2011, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
A "whistleblower" lawsuit by the state's former long-term care ombudsman was settled last week through mediation. Brian Lee, who held the ombudsman post for seven years before his February 2011 ouster, will receive $25,000, less payroll taxes and other deductions, from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, according to a copy of the settlement.
HNF Stories
9:33 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Halifax Whistleblower, Friends Were Shunned

When Elin Baklid-Kunz was concerned about the way her bosses at Halifax Health were doing business, she got help from a federal law designed to protect whistleblowers around since the Civil War.

"The False Claims Act seemed to be the only tool I had to report this to the government," said Baklid Kunz, a veteran compliance officer at the hospital who first filed the lawsuit in 2009.

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HNF Stories
4:41 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Seniors Tackle Diabetes Before Diagnosis

Seven graduates of the St. Petersburg YMCA Diabetes Prevention program and their Instructor Lois Huyghue
Mary Shedden

It’s graduation day at the St. Petersburg YMCA, and Ruth Neal and her classmates are taking a victory lap.

The past 16 weeks, they've talked nonstop about counting fat grams, portion control and the value of being active 150 minutes a week.

“I’m going to stick with it, because I want to be as blessed as my mother was. One hundred and six years old when she passed. I want to be just as blessed,” the 71-year-old from St. Petersburg said of her newfound weight loss and exercise routine.

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HNF Stories
4:59 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Tougher Compounding Rules Finally Law

Credit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Stricter regulations in the state’s compounding pharmacy industry take effect Wednesday -- two years after a national outbreak of fungal meningitis killed 64 people, including seven in Florida.

In 2012, when the New England Compounding Center outbreak happened, the state had hundreds of unregulated, non-resident facilities providing these specialized medications to Floridians. Now, the state will require permits for any pharmacies outside state boundaries that want to ship medications in state.

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8:36 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Prison Health Provider Told It's Failing

The winner of a $1.2 billion contract to provide health care to Florida’s prison inmates is being accused of failing to treat patients properly, the News Service of Florida reports. The Department of Corrections says the Missouri-based company Corizon must fix 80 percent of the problems identified in recent audits, or payment will be withheld, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews is threatening to stop payments to a Missouri-based company that won a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide health care to the majority of the state's prisoners, accusing Corizon of failing to provide adequate treatment.

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