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
12:29 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Businesses Driving Expansion Push

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signed an open letter to the Legislature, advocating for a Medicaid expansion alternative.
Brian Blanco

Florida's Legislature has twice turned down proposals to provide health insurance for nearly 1 million state residents.  And the new House Speaker on Wednesday said he had “no plans” to expand Medicaid for the people caught in the so-called coverage gap.

But still state business leaders – and some mayors – continue to rally and aim to take another swing at it when the Legislature convenes March 3.

Read more
8:38 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Baker Act Revisions Proposed

Florida’s Legislature may consider revamping the state’s Baker Act law that oversees the involuntary commitment of people thought to be a danger to themselves or others, the News Service of Florida reports. Bills filed in both the House and Senate would look at the amount of time individuals are screened, and may consider using remote, telemedicine consultations to evaluate patients, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Two South Florida lawmakers have filed bills that would require a review of Florida's "Baker Act,'' which allows for the involuntary commitment of people who have mental illnesses and are considered dangers to themselves or others. The proposals (SB 514 and HB 505), filed by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, and Rep.
8:25 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Three More AHCA Field Offices Closing

The Agency for Health Care Administration will close field offices in West Palm Beach, Alachua and Panama City this summer, as part of the department's increased use of managed care, the News Service of Florida reports. It joins shuttered offices in Tallahassee and Ocala, which closed last year, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
With Florida now enrolling most Medicaid beneficiaries in managed-care plans, the Agency for Health Care Administration plans to close three field offices this summer, Secretary Liz Dudek told lawmakers Thursday. The agency last year closed field offices in Tallahassee and Ocala and plans additional closures of offices in West Palm Beach, Panama City and Alachua.
8:18 am
Mon January 26, 2015

DOH Won't Slash Early Steps Budget

Plans to cut $4.2 million from this year's Early Steps budget were put on hold Friday by the Department of Health, the News Service of Florida reports. Department officials told a House subcommittee last week that federal budget cuts were to blame, while some lawmakers said they heard the state's move to a third-party claims administrator was the real cause, the News Service reports. Also in Tallahassee last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced plans to invest $8 million for the state's Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
The state Department of Health on Friday backed off a plan to cut millions of dollars from an early-intervention program that serves babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays. The department last week notified the state's 15 Early Steps offices that $4.2 million would be cut from the program's budget effective immediately -- in the middle of the fiscal year.
8:34 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Non-Lawyers Zinged for Medicaid Advice

Florida's Supreme Court is criticizing insurance agents and others trying to help families of nursing home residents apply for Medicaid assistance, the News Service of Florida reports. A Florida Bar committee asked the court to rule on what it calls an unlicensed practice of law, while critics say the Bar is too broadly defining the role of Medicaid planners, the News Service reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that took aim at non-lawyers who are paid to help people get Medicaid benefits -- including seniors who need Medicaid coverage for nursing-home care. The Supreme Court approved a proposal that said some of the services provided by so-called Medicaid planners constitute the improper "unlicensed practice of law."
8:27 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Growers to Take Stab at Pot Rules

The ongoing debate over Florida's limited-use medical marijuana law lurched forward with the naming of a rules-making committee of growers and other interested parties, the News Service of Florida reports. Five growers, state officials and a Colorado-based medical marijuana are among the participants on the 12-person panel.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Five nurseries will be part of a 12-member panel announced Friday to hammer out rules on who can grow medical marijuana and how it will be distributed to patients. The rule makers selected by the state Office of Compassionate Use will meet the first week of February in Tallahassee to set up the regulatory structure for the five nurseries eventually selected to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana in Florida.
HNF Stories
9:03 am
Fri January 16, 2015

FL Hospitals Could Lose $1.3 Billion

Credit Taber Andrew Bain, via Flickr Creative Commons

Florida’s safety-net hospitals stand to lose 15 percent of the money it receives from Medicaid next year, if state and federal officials don’t renew an agreement to cover care for poor state residents.

Read more
7:34 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Capital: Guns, Child Welfare to Be Discussed

Florida Legislative committees next week will discuss bills to allow firearms on college campuses, and hear an update on how new child welfare reforms are being implemented, the News Service of Florida reports. The gun bill is similar to one that failed to pass in 2011.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
A House panel is expected next week to take up a bill that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on the campuses of state colleges and universities. The bill (HB 4005), filed by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is scheduled to be considered Tuesday by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
HNF Stories
8:11 am
Wed January 14, 2015

Nurses Push to Prevent Workplace Violence

Dozens of nurses rallied on the streets of Tampa's Ybor City Tuesday to push for more workplace safety rules for health care workers.
Mary Shedden Health News Florida

Members of a Tampa-based nurses’ union on Tuesday rallied against the physical and emotional abuse they say is an all-too-common occupational hazard.

The U.S. Department of Labor says that in 2010, more than 11,000 health care and social workers were the victims of workplace violence. Louise Eastty, an intensive care unit nurse for 15 years, said she’s seen co-workers attacked physically by patients, and has been verbally abused countless times.

Read more
10:37 am
Fri January 9, 2015

Revised Language Part of New Pot Proposal

New language about how doctors would prescribe medical marijuana is part of a new constitutional amendment filed Thursday by Orlando attorney John Morgan, the News Service of Florida reports. The 2016 proposed amendment clarifies that doctors must get a parent's permission before prescribing medical marijuana to a child. There's also a more specific list of diseases that would qualify for the alternative form of treatment, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Proponents of a medical-marijuana ballot initiative that fell short of passing in November are making a second attempt to legalize weed in Florida. Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who pumped at least $2 million of his own money into the effort last year, said he filed proposed language Thursday with the Department of State for a 2016 constitutional amendment.
9:12 am
Fri January 9, 2015

Low-Income Pool Review Due This Week

A Senate health committee learned Wednesday that an independent review of the Low-Income Pool funding for poor and uninsured people should be submitted by next week, the News Service of Florida reports. Federal officials required an independent study of possible changes in the program, which provides the state $1 Billion a year, but is set to expire June 30, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
State health-care officials expect to receive a report next week that spells out options for dealing with the possible end of a program that has provided $1 billion a year to help care for low-income and uninsured people. The Low Income Pool, or LIP, program is scheduled to expire June 30, unless the federal government approves an extension.
8:48 am
Fri January 9, 2015

Pediatrician: Medicaid Changes Not Enough

Florida's Medicaid managed care system in theory should pay doctors more for services, but "on the ground,'' the program insuring poor children still isn't working, physician Louis St. Petery told a Senate committee, the News Service of Florida reports. He disputed state officials who say the changes they've made erase problems brought up in a lingering, decade-old lawsuit over pediatric care, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Arguing that Medicaid has undergone a transformation, state officials pushed back Wednesday against a federal judge's finding that Florida has not properly provided health care to low-income children. "Everything around the program has changed,'' state Medicaid director Justin Senior told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
HNF Stories
3:58 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Minority Signups for Marketplace Strong in FL

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families

Black and Hispanic Floridians are signing up for insurance on HealthCare.gov in big numbers.

Since enrollment for 2015 coverage began Nov. 15, more than 673,000 state residents have signed up on the federal marketplace. And the leader of the state's largest effort to recruit and assist people in enrollment said Thursday that 30 percent of the people they've helped so far are Hispanic. Another 25 percent are African American.

Read more
8:27 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Report: PIP Medical Claims Decrease

Florida’s attempt to reign in personal-injury protection insurance fraud is having some impact, the News Service of Florida reports. A review from the Office for Insurance Regulation says fewer claims and financial requests have been made since the 2012 law was enacted. However, claims through other forms of insurance have increased, according to the News Service.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
A 2012 effort to reform the state's "no-fault" auto insurance system has halted the growth of fraud in the system, according to a new state report. But the numbers released Monday are still considered too preliminary to show the full impact of the law.
4:12 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Simply Healthcare Sold to Anthem

Anthem Inc. will take over South Florida's Simply Healthcare Holdings, which manages polices for about 170,000 people with Medicaid and 22,000 people in Medicare, the News Service of Florida reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Simply Healthcare Holdings, a managed-care firm that is a major player in Florida's Medicaid program, will be purchased by Indianapolis-based Anthem, Inc., the companies announced on Dec. 21. Simply Healthcare, which is based in Coral Gables, operates through subsidiaries Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc. and Better Health, Inc.
3:52 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

New Disabled Service Formula Considered

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is attempting to recalculate how money is spent on services for disabled adults, and late last month received feedback from about 100 advocates, service providers and support coordinators, the News Service of Florida reports.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
Complying with a court ruling, the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities on Thursday held a hearing about a mathematical formula that helps determine how much money is spent on services for developmentally disabled Floridians. The 1st District Court of Appeal in July found that the agency did not properly carry out a law that created what are known as "iBudgets."
3:43 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

Scott Keeps Pushing Drug Testing Challenge

Gov. Rick Scott's lawyer is arguing strenuously against cutting short a lawsuit over the drug testing of state employees, the News Service of Florida reports. Attorney Thomas Bishop wrote late last month that the challenge involving the American Civil Liberties Union attempts to side-step previous court orders.
  • Source: Usf
  • | Via: News Service of Florida
After racking up more than $650,000 in legal fees, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is refusing to back down from his drug-testing crusade, objecting on Monday to an attempt to close a drawn-out legal battle over requiring state workers to submit to urinalysis.
HNF Stories
1:55 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

New Car Seat Law Starts Jan. 1

Petra Vybiralova, left, is a program supervisor at the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition. She checks out a car seat with trainer Peggy Klimek.
Mary Shedden Health News Florida

Florida is about to increase the age requirement for children riding in car seats.

As of Thursday, the law requires five-point restraints until a child's sixth birthday. That's two years more that kids need to wait before moving into a booster seat.

Petra Vybiralova  is a program supervisor at the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition. She says the law may help lower the number of deaths and injuries.

Read more
HNF Stories
10:27 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Troubled Plans Top Health News in 2014

Take a look at the top health care stories in Florida in 2014, and it’s clear that the business of Medicare and Medicaid continued to dominate the news.

Good news -- and plenty of bad, too -- topped the most read stories on Health News Florida in the past year. And yes, the glitches and changes tied to new Affordable Care Act rules created plenty of buzz as well.

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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 Colombian 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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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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