Mary Shedden

News Director

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.

Since arriving at WUSF in 2013, she has worked as a reporter and as editor of the Health News Florida journalism collaborative.

In the past 20 years, Shedden has 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, Shedden has lived in the Tampa Bay area since 1999.

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

Ways to Connect

Aging Nation Tested By Health, Finances

Feb 19, 2015
Daylina Miller/WUSF News

Social Security is turning 80 this year. 

And Medicare is hitting the big 5-0. 

These aging government programs - and the challenges brought on by the enormous Baby Boomer generation - underscored Thursday's discussions at the first of five White House Conference on Aging regional gatherings. 

National Cancer Institute

The number of doctors practicing psychiatry and general surgery is expected to reach critically low levels in the next 10 years, according to a new study from the state’s teaching hospitals.

Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF News

Tanya Villanueva Tepper was thinking wedding plans -- not widowhood -- the morning of September 11, 2001.

Her fiancé, a New York City firefighter, was among the thousands killed when the Twin Towers were attacked. She was forced to learn how to live every day without her Sergio.

Valentine’s Day, she said, was especially painful. Reminders to buy roses, chocolates or jewelry for that special someone were everywhere. And for those whose spouses and partners have died, all that commercialized romance just plain hurts.

Brian Blanco

Jamie Harden knows firsthand how Florida Legislative leaders feel about Medicaid expansion.  

Last year, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce asked him to join BayCare Health System President Steve Mason at a meeting with legislators and lobby to expand the state’s health insurance program for the poor.

Harden, a Tampa sign company president, said it didn’t go well.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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