Carol Gentry

Health News Florida Special Correspondent

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.

After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), theTampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.  She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996.  She directed a journalism fellowship program at CDC for four years.

Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF  in 2012. 

Contact Ms. Gentry at at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.

Ways To Connect

Orthopedic surgeon Edward Homan, who served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, is the latest high-profile physician to be publicly embarrassed after operating on the wrong side of a patient.

He told the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday that the error shook him to the core.  “It’s like going through a divorce. It’s very painful,” he said. “It’s all you can think about for months.”

Orthopedic surgeon Edward Homan, who served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, is the latest high-profile physician to be publicly embarrassed after operating on the wrong side of a patient.

Homan, who served as president of the Hillsborough County Medical Association and was chief of staff at a Tampa hospital for many years, must appear before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday.

When multiple sclerosis patient Meesha Cook suffers a seizure, she doesn’t get to decide where she’ll go for treatment.

If the Brevard County resident is at her job, as a cashier at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Rockledge, paramedics take her down the road to Wuesthoff Medical Center.

If she’s at home in Viera, the next town south, they take her to the hospital there.

Univita Health, which gained control of the entire Florida Medicaid home-care market a year ago, has suddenly lost all of its HMO contracts.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration made the announcement in an e-mail blast late Tuesday afternoon. 

Univita, based in Miramar, stopped processing requests for home health-care services, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and intravenous therapy “effective immediately,” AHCA said.

While the “Right to Try Act,” which aims to give dying patients the right to try unapproved experimental drugs, is law in Florida as of today, its implementation isn't so clear.

In theory, the Right to Try law allows terminally ill patients access to drugs that have passed first-phase clinical trials and are going through later-stage trials as part of a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration.

Medicaid health plans, which lost $543 million in the first half-year of Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program, have been hoping for major rate relief Sept. 1, when the second year of the program begins.

The Agency for Health Care Administration has proposed a rate increase averaging 6.4 percent for the coming year, ranging from less than 1 percent in the Pasco-Pinellas Counties region to 14 percent in two north Florida regions that cover rural counties.

A bill that would overturn 40 years of hospital regulation in Florida is one of four contentious issues scheduled for a key House committee this morning and a Senate workshop this afternoon.

One of Florida’s most experienced OB-GYNs was “grossly negligent” in attempting a vaginal delivery in a risky case that ended in a stillbirth, the Florida Board of Medicine said Friday.

Update: The Florida Board of Medicine on Friday recommended that Dr. Simion Tsinker be suspended. More here.

The most controversial issue in childbirth – when to let nature take its course, when to do surgery – underlies a state complaint to go before the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday.

  Two years ago, a little boy with a leaky heart valve was rolled into the operating room at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  Before starting surgery, as required, the team took a “Time Out.”

Doctors and nurses made sure they had the correct patient on the table – Justin Solnay, age 11 – and were planning the right procedure – replacing Justin’s weak aortic valve with a mechanical implant. They ran through the list; check, check and check.

Gov. Rick Scott, who last week asked the state's hospitals to provide a large amount of financial data by Monday, will not get all that he asked for that quickly. He may not get some of it at all.

Hospital executives and lawyers say they want to cooperate with Scott and his newly appointed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which seeks data on services, profits, costs and patient outcomes. 

Gov. Rick Scott’s call for an investigation of hospital finances, officially issued this week, had a familiar ring to Floridians in the health-care industry.

“My first thought was, ‘Gee, didn’t we just do that?’” said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. She was one of those asked to testify at a 2011 hearing held by Scott’s first hospital-financing panel, created shortly after he was sworn into office.

Florida House leaders, who for three years have rejected federal funds to expand health coverage to the poor, brought the legislative session to an early halt Tuesday because of their rock-solid belief that “Medicaid is broken.”

Florida Medicaid’s request that federal officials send the state $2.2 billion dollars to keep the Low Income Pool subsidies flowing to hospitals won’t work because a vital part is missing, Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner says.

Florida Medicaid, which has been touting its "Managed Medical Assistance" program as a national model, may want to hold off.

The program, which shifts virtually all Medicaid recipients into managed-care plans, underestimated how much their care would cost.

 After an emergency trip to the hospital, some patients find a nasty surprise in their mailbox -- bills their insurer didn't pay. Florida law protects some patients from this but not others.

Those in an HMO would see all their bills covered: ambulance, hospital, and doctors. But those who have another type of health insurance could be slapped with astronomical bills. They could have collection agents calling to get whatever their plan didn't pay.

When federal money’s on the table, most states go for it like coupon-clippers at a closeout sale.

But studies show that when it comes to seeking federal money, Florida holds back, particularly in health care. Sometimes, the state changes its mind later and asks for its share of the money, only to discover that it’s too late; other states have made off with it.

When the 2015 legislative session begins next week, many of the state’s decisions on health care for the poor are on hold as state and federal Medicaid officials negotiate over funding, behind closed doors. Billions of dollars are at stake.

When it comes to health-care funding, Florida’s in a funny position. The state has twice turned down billions of dollars from federal Medicaid that would have covered care for about a million poor Floridians.

This year may be no different.

Florida business groups, insurers, and hospitals are pushing state officials to accept billions of dollars in federal funds to cover the low-income uninsured.

But when the 2015 legislative session opens next Tuesday, this impressive coalition will run into Rep. Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican who chairs the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

The nation’s Medicaid chief said Tuesday the federal funds Florida hospitals have depended on to pay for the uninsured will not be arriving any more.

There is “no way” that Florida’s “Low Income Pool” program will continue when it expires in June, said Eliot Fishman, director of the Medicaid division of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  “Not in its present form.”

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