Sammy Mack

Health News Florida Reporter

Sammy Mack loves public radio and public health.

Mack is a multiplatform producer for WLRN-Miami Herald News, where she covers the public health and health policy beat. For two years, her health reporting with WLRN was supported by the grant-funded HealthyState.org project. She was selected as a 2012 fellow with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Her stories have appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, HealthNewsFlorida.org, Gambit Weekly, MAP Magazine, Gulfshore Life, Philadelphia Weekly, the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and other outlets.

Mack’s work has been honored with Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won an Emmy, regional Edward R. Murrow awards, a Wilbur Award and a Dart Award. Mack was a writing fellow during the 2008 Poynter Summer Fellowship for Young Journalists.

Ways to Connect

Last year, lawmakers in Tallahassee fought over how to fund health care for uninsured Floridians. Now two new reports say county leaders are the ones who really need to be concerned.

Florida State Rep. Carlos Trujillo is in the middle of some pressing and controversial issues this legislative session.

The South Florida Republican sponsored one bill that would close a health insurance gap and another that would make it illegal for people who have been deported to come back into Florida.

And before session even started, he took heat from the gun lobby for his position on a Stand Your Ground bill.

Florida's annual legislative session gets under way today. WUSF News will bring you live coverage of the governor's State of the State address starting today at 11 a.m. This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 7:30 a.m.), we will feature highlights of the address, along with the Democratic response.  

Linda Quick has been a force in Florida health care policy for decades.

Quick—who was born at Coral Gables Hospital—spent 40 years working in health care. The past two decades of that were with the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, which represents hundreds of hospitals and health-care businesses on legislative and industry issues.

Quick has had an insider’s view of some of the biggest policy and economic events affecting the health of Floridians.

And as of January, she’s retired.

HealthCare.gov

Two insurers - Cigna and Preferred Medical Plan – aren’t offering plans on the Florida health care exchange in 2016, forcing more than 100,000 Floridians to shop for new coverage.

Florida hospitals are doing less harm than they used to. 

According to a report out from the Florida Hospital Association, a two-year project across the state prevented more than 27,000 mistakes and injuries to patients. 

Not long after Sherry Poulin married her husband Louis last year, the newlyweds sat in their kitchen with health insurance information laid out in front of them.

“We were like, this is just not, this is not do-able,” says Sherry.

Before getting married, Poulin paid $50 a month for a subsidized plan through Obamacare. Now, for a plan offered through her husband’s employer, she was looking at about $500 a month.

 

Florida legislators have been grappling with the problem of balance billing—also known as “surprise billing”—and now the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed a broader rule aimed at fixing the issue.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell stopped at Miami Dade College on Wednesday to drum up excitement around open enrollment for health insurance plans—though during her stop she was not keen on addressing some of the problems that have come out of Obamacare.

She began her tour of MDC in a computer lab on the second floor of the downtown campus where there’s a bank of computers dedicated just to helping students enroll in Obamacare.

A new analysis of Florida’s health care markets finds that as the state’s hospitals consolidate and expand, new business models are shifting the negotiating power.

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN POPULATION HEALTH INSTITUTE / COUNTY HEALTH RANKINGS HEALTH GAPS REPORT 2015 / WLRN

A new study of state death rates shows more Floridians die early in some counties than in others—and researchers have a few ideas about how to change that.

The March of Dimes has  issued its 2015 report card on early births across the country and Florida gets bad grades for its premature birth rates.

The state earned a C this year for having a premature birth rate of 9.9 percent—just about one in every 10 babies born in Florida. The March of Dimes goal is 8.1 percent.

The owner of the now-defunct Dade Medical College, Ernesto Perez, has been charged with making illegal campaign contributions. 

LIP Funding Not Going Up

Oct 19, 2015

The federal government isn’t changing its budget for Florida’s charity health care. 

Tallahassee lawmakers got a hard pill to swallow Thursday.

Daylina Miller / WUSF

Children who get health insurance through Medicaid go to the dentist about half as often as children in Florida who have private insurance, according to a new study out from the American Dental Association and the Health Policy Institute.

When Uwe Reinhardt tries to explains the Gordian Knot of hospital pricing to his health care economics students at Princeton University, he has a go-to metaphor:

“It's almost like blindfolding people, shoving them into Macy's and saying, ‘buy — efficiently — for a shirt.’ Well you come out with a pair of shorts,” says Reinhardt.

In our Power of Price series, we’ve been exploring how the secrecy shrouding health care pricing can raise costs — the cost of the care itself and the cost to employees who get their insurance through work.

There’s a movement to make those prices more transparent. More than a dozen other states have started something called an “all-payer claims database.”

Figuring out the real price of health care is complicated — even if you've already paid your bills. You can hear just how complicated it is here:

And if health care pricing wasn’t convoluted enough, it’s hard to talk about it without running into some conversation-stopping jargon. Words that mean one thing to the rest of the English-speaking world can mean something completely different in health care — like a “charge” that isn’t the same as the price.

  Almost a year and a half ago, Mt. Sinai Medical Center CEO Steve Sonenreich pledged on WLRN to make public what insurance companies pay his hospital.

 A group of Florida doctors has been charging Medicare at a surprisingly high rate. 

Every hospital has a price list but it is hard for the average consumer to figure out what a hospital really charges for care. Traditionally, the price on that list is nowhere near what it actually expects you or an insurance company to pay.

It’s a Wednesday morning and the waiting room is already starting to fill up at the North Miami Beach Senior High School clinic.

“Go ahead and have a seat.”