WLRN Connects: Paying for Healthcare During COVID-19

Aug 12, 2020

Natalia Jarramillo spent several days trying to get a free COVID-19 test. She wasn't feeling well. She was achy, but didn't have a temperature. She was feeling under the weather, but couldn't go to a state-run COVID testing facility because of the weather.

The state shutdown its testing facilities in advance of Hurricane Isaias. Jarramillo's doctor wanted her tested so she wound up visiting a hospital emergency room. The test was free. The visit was not.

Now she's in quarantine and facing a $250 bill for the emergency room visit.

Don’t Count On Lower Premiums Despite Pandemic-Driven Boon For Insurers

Jul 31, 2020
Ashkan Forouzani

When COVID-19 smacked the United States in March and April, health plans feared medical costs could skyrocket, jacking up premiums drastically in 2021, when millions of the newly unemployed might still be out of work.

How Hands-On Nursing Education Went Online During Pandemic

Jul 31, 2020
woman at computer distance learning
Valorie MacKenna

As a nursing PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Central Florida, Valorie MacKenna solved an important problem when the pandemic hit: how to move hands-on simulation classes online.

WMFE spoke with MacKenna about what that virtual education looked like and whether it’s the future of health care instruction.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried Friday hosted a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers to talk about Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fried and the participants discussed what Florida’s leaders must do to properly manage the COVID-19 public health crisis. The state is experiencing an outbreak that is among the worst in the United States.

Izzy Benasso was playing a casual game of tennis with her father on a summer Saturday when she felt her knee pop. She had torn a meniscus, one of the friction-reducing pads in the knee, locking it in place at a 45-degree angle.

Although she suspected she had torn something, the 21-year-old senior at the University of Colorado Boulder had to endure an anxious weekend in July 2019 until she could get an MRI that Monday.

"It was kind of emotional for her," said her father, Steve Benasso. "Just sitting there thinking about all the things she wasn't going to be able to do."

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ+ people could not be discriminated against when it comes to employment.

But three days before that, the Trump administration rolled back protections for transgender people when it comes to health care.

Governor Ron DeSantis slashed a billion dollars from the state budget. And as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, future cuts are likely. 

That's the focus of this week's Florida Matters. 


More than 100 new laws will hit the books Wednesday from the 2020 legislative session, with issues ranging from expanding school vouchers to increasing fines for bear poaching.

DeSantis' Budget Vetoes A 'Big Hit' To Florida's Health Care System

Jun 30, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed scores of health care-related projects but also cut into what is known as the "base budget, which includes programs funded with recurring dollars.

Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed more than $140.5 million in health care spending from the state’s new budget Monday as he brought the spending plan in line with reduced revenues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alex Azar
Associated Press

The Trump administration has won a court ruling upholding its plan to require insurers and hospitals to disclose the actual prices for common tests and procedures in a bid to promote competition and push down costs. 

Fast-Tracked Pharmacy Rules Worry Some Doctors

Jun 16, 2020
Despite resistance from doctors, the Legislature passed a law this year to expand what health services could be provided by pharmacists.

A push to expand the role Florida pharmacists play in delivering health care - deemed a growing necessity due to the coronavirus pandemic - is running into questions about how it will be carried out.

Despite resistance from doctors, the Legislature passed a law this year to expand what health services could be provided by pharmacists. But implementing new rules to carry out the law is drawing fire from physicians who worry about a lack of specifics on what pharmacists can and can’t do.

Elderly Holocaust survivors in Northeast Florida would get wrap-around health care and social services under a bill that’s set to be heard in a Florida House committee next Monday.

Therapists in Tampa are once again able to conduct the controversial procedure known as conversion therapy after a federal judge struck down a city ban on it.

Tampa, Orlando Areas Part Of Walmart Test To Find Best Doctors

Oct 3, 2019

Worried its employees aren’t getting good enough care from doctors in their insurance networks, Walmart next year will test pointing workers in northwestern Arkansas, central Florida and the Dallas-Fort Worth area toward physicians it has found provide better service. 

Sign reading: "Homele$$ Need Work Anything Helps"
Creative Commons

The more than $750,000 dollar grant from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will be distributed to local agencies like the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. 

Surrounded by patients who told horror stories of being stuck with hefty bills, President Trump recently waded into a widespread health care problem for which almost all people — even those with insurance — are at risk: surprise medical billing.

Trump's declaration that taming unexpected bills would be a top priority for his administration echoed through the halls of Congress, where a handful of Republican and Democratic lawmakers had already been studying the problem.

Children's Health Program Funding In Jeopardy

Dec 21, 2017

With money for Florida's subsidized children's health-insurance program due to run out in a matter of weeks, the state has not warned the parents of roughly 200,000 children that they could soon lose coverage.

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow comes from a long line of citrus farmers, so it's no surprise he's in favor of a continued flow of migrant labor to help pick that fruit. But is he in favor of "amnesty"  for all people in the country illegally? 

Having private insurance companies manage Florida’s Medicaid services instead of the state has been successful, said the Agency for Health Care Administration. But long-term care providers and advocacy groups disagree and they outlined problems to Florida senators on Wednesday.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald visited Orlando Friday to see the state's newest VA hospital.

While the former Proctor and Gamble executive has made reforming VA bureaucracy his top goal, that message has been drowned out by controversy surrounding comments that he had served in special forces – even though he didn’t.

McDonald spoke with reporters including Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya, who explained the visit with WMFE 90.7’s Crystal Chavez.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Two Florida counties this week switched contractors hired to handle health care at their county jails. The Volusia County Commission on Thursday dumped Corizon Health, which also is the state prison system medical care provider, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

A partnership is being considered between the region's biggest hospital system, Baptist Health South Florida, and Palm Beach County's Bethesda Health network, according to the Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal.

Miami-Dade voters approved the sale of $830 million in bonds to upgrade several hospitals and clinics that are part of the publicly owned Jackson Health System.  The bonds, which would be paid for through a rise in property taxes, was approved by more than 65 percent of voters on Tuesday, according to the South Florida Business Journal.