Health News Florida
9:27 am
Tue May 26, 2015

Fed Word On LIP Gives Session New Focus

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 9:31 am

For weeks now, one question has hovered over Tallahassee: How will the House and Senate resolve their differences on health care funding and wrap up a special session --- scheduled to begin Monday  --- with a spending plan for state government?

 

If the pieces didn't necessarily fall into place last week, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott were at least able to get around to opening the puzzle box.

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Health News Florida
9:23 am
Tue May 26, 2015

Child Dentist Accused of ‘Horrors’ Quits

Protestors stand outside Dr. Howard Schneider's office in Jacksonville in April.

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 9:10 am

A Florida children’s dentist accused of running a “house of horrors” that included performing surgical procedures without anesthetic agreed late last week to stop practicing medicine.

Dr. Howard Schneider of Jacksonville faces multiple lawsuits and his office has been picketed in recent weeks by parents carrying signs as a growing number of ex-patients complain about his practices.

In addition, Florida officials launched an investigation and attorneys said the state was working on an emergency order to shut him down.

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Off The Base
9:23 am
Tue May 26, 2015

New Orlando VA Hospital Ready for Debut

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 8:56 am

The head of the Veterans Administration is in Orlando today to dedicate the new VA hospital in Lake Nona. VA Secretary Bob McDonald will be the keynote speaker at an event, which will include elected officials.

The $620 million dollar facility broke ground seven years ago, and has been plagued with delays. The clinic began seeing patients in February, and the hospital will continue opening in phases through the rest of 2015.

Navy veteran Tom Pokorski said the new facility is an improvement over the VA clinic at Lake Baldwin, which is old and over-crowded.

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Off The Base
8:17 am
Mon May 25, 2015

2015 Memorial Day Ceremonies in Florida

Credit The Patterson Foundation

You can locate a VA National Cemetery nearest you that is holding a 2015 Memorial Day Ceremony HERE.

MONDAY - MAY 25, 2015

Barrancas National Cemetery
Naval Air Station
1 Cemetery Road
Pensacola, FL 32508
(850) 453-4108 or 453-4846
Ceremony: May 25 at 9:00 a.m.

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Environment
6:23 am
Sat May 23, 2015

Sharing the Beach with Nesting Birds on Memorial Day

Hey, I'm nesting here!
Credit Audubon

It's not just people who flock to the shore during Memorial Day weekend. Audubon Florida is reminding Floridians that birds are also nesting on the shoreline.

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NPR Story
3:45 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

Speaker: LIP Offer Will Help End Impasse

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 3:44 pm

A day after receiving word that Florida likely will receive about $1 billion next year for a key health-care program, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said Friday that the information could help end a state budget impasse.

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, sent a letter to the state Thursday indicating Florida could expect to receive about $1 billion during the upcoming fiscal year for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program.

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Environment
3:32 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

Another Citrus Disease Spreads in Florida

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 2:38 pm

There’s yet another citrus disease out there. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a sobering estimate for Florida’s citrus production this year. And the state is expected to produce about 8 million boxes less than last year. This is because the state’s citrus suffers from ailments like citrus greening and citrus canker.  Now, the new disease is spreading. It’s called citrus black spot.

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10:26 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Jeb Bush Offers Some Rare Criticism of his Brother

“I think that in Washington, during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money,” Jeb Bush said. “I think he could have used the veto power — he didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C.”
Jeb Bush on Thursday put a bit more space between himself and his brother, part of a slow-motion and seemingly reluctant distancing effort as he moves toward a White House bid. After being asked by a questioner at a sports bar here whether there is any "space" between the Bush brothers on issues, Jeb Bush pointed to the scale of government spending during the George W. Bush presidency.
News
9:24 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Fed LIP Offer Aims to Solve FL Budget Mess

Gov. Rick Scott

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 9:38 am

The Obama administration offered Thursday to extend Florida's hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year — a deal that might help fill a $1 billion state budget hole and resolve a legislative stalemate.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

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Off The Base
7:46 am
Fri May 22, 2015

A Fallen Member of an All-Female Team

1st Lt. Ashley White was a member of the all-female Army Cultural Support Team. She was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011 while supporting a Ranger night mission.
Credit Ashley White Family / Memorial Page

Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

White is buried behind her family’s church in Ohio. It’s the same church where she was baptized and where she married Capt. Jason Stumpf six months before she was killed.

The family had the option of burying Ashley at Arlington National Cemetery,

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Environment
4:52 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Nelson Moves to Extend Gulf Oil Drilling Ban

Bill Nelson addresses the Senate, next to a picture of workers cleaning an oil-soaked beach in hazmat gear

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson today filed a bill that would extend the moratorium on oil drilling off Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast. The move comes the day after the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill. 

The bill would extend the moratorium on drilling at least 125 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast until 2027. The ban currently is in place until 2022, but last week, another senator from Louisiana moved to repeal it. The bill by Sen. Bill Cassidy would allow oil rigs at least 75 miles closer to Florida's western coastline.

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The Two-Way
4:31 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Fla. Mailman Who Flew Gyrocopter Onto Capitol Lawn Appears In Court

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 5:00 pm

Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET

The Florida mailman who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the Capitol last month appeared in court today and pleaded not guilty to all six charges against him.

Douglas Mark Hughes was charged Wednesday and faces up to 9 1/2 years in prison.

NPR's Peter Overby reported on the charges against Hughes:

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It's All Politics
3:51 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Gyrocopter Pilot On His 'Incredible' Flight Onto Capitol Lawn

Doug Hughes said he sees his future as working for "the cause of getting a Congress — not more liberal, not more conservative — but a Congress that is working for the people."
Peter Overby NPR

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 8:39 am

Florida postman Doug Hughes made headlines last month for landing his gyrocopter on the lawn in front of the Capitol building.

In an interview with NPR, Hughes said he "made every effort to send word ahead" about the flight, but also knew he would be taken into custody. He made the flight anyway, he said, to "get a message to the American people — not that there's a problem with Congress but that there are solutions to the problem."

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Breaking
11:16 am
Thu May 21, 2015

FL Could Get Low Income Pool Funds

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a letter dated May 21 that Florida can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for the Low Income Pool.

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 4:51 pm

The Obama administration has made an offer that it hopes will resolve Florida’s $1 billion state budget stalemate over health care funds for poor people.

Federal health officials agreed to extend Florida’s hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year. That means Florida lawmakers may have to dip into the state budget to fill the gap or state hospitals will get less money in the coming year.

In a letter Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott, federal officials stressed that they would not use Low Income Pool hospital funds to cover anyone who could be covered by Medicaid expansion, but they also acknowledged the loss of those funds may be difficult for the state. The current hospital funds are $2.1 billion dollars, put up by the state and federal government. The administration’s preliminary offer drops that to $1 billion for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and to $600 million the following year.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

“The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a state option … (R)egardless of whether a state expands Medicaid, uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in Medicaid expansion,” federal health officials said in the letter.

The funds, which are part of a federal program that covers the hospital bills of uninsured and Medicaid patients, were supposed to end this year as President Barack Obama’s health care program grew. Patients covered by the low-income pool were supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the Florida House and Scott have balked at expanding it.

The bitter standoff between the Republican governor and the Obama administration tore apart the state legislative session, with the House abruptly adjourning three days early last month. Scott sued the Obama administration, comparing federal officials to the TV mobster show “The Sopranos” and accusing them of withholding the hospital funds because the state wouldn’t expand Medicaid.

The dispute created a $1 billion hole in the governor’s budget that should now be much easier for lawmakers to address when they return for a special session June 1.

Scott pressed for the extension for months, even visiting Washington twice and blaming the Obama administration for ruining his budget and ignoring his timeline even though he’s known for more than a year that the funds were ending. He waited until mid-April to submit a proposal, although the months-long required public comment period made it impossible to get an answer before the Legislature adjourned last month.

The Obama administration and hospitals want the governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians and will not spend federal hospital funds on those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. That’s because federal health officials say it’s more efficient to use the money to give people health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

But Scott and Republican House leaders refuse to accept any money tied to the Affordable Care Act - including Medicaid expansion. They even snubbed a Senate proposal that would eventually take billions of federal dollars and allow the Medicaid expansion recipients to buy private health insurance - a solution that Scott has fought for in the past.

The House and Senate recently announced they would discuss Medicaid expansion during the special session, snubbing the governor’s call to focus only on the budget.

Senate leaders had prepared to move ahead with a health care coverage plan during the upcoming special session, but the announcement from the federal government bolsters the argument of House Republicans who maintained that the state would continue to receive a decent chunk of the hospital money without having to expand Medicaid.

During a recent closed-door session, House and Senate budget chiefs discussed the House’s objections to the Senate’s current proposal. Senate budget chief Tom Lee agreed there were “reasonable” concerns raised about the Senate plan.

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Politics
10:05 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Gov. Scott Still Wants Tax Cuts, School-Funding Increase

Credit Mark Wilson / Getty News Images

Florida Gov. Rick Scott resumed his push Wednesday for a massive tax-cut package and a “historic” increase in school funding, downplaying a call for agency heads to prepare for a bare-bones budget.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a good special session,” Scott said when asked about the state having to scale down to its critical needs if lawmakers fail to hammer out a budget before July 1.

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