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Health News Florida Staff

Health News Florida is now part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, Florida.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012. 

Read WUSF News Director Scott Finn's column about it.

Please send news tips or questions to Carol Gentry:

--Landline 813-974-8629

--Cell 727-410-3266

--email cgentry@wusf.org or e-mail carol.gentry@healthnewsflorida.org.

Compassionate Care Hospice in Lakeland can restart operations soon, as Gov.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and a University of South Florida anthropology professor are developing a forensic research site, where investigators could study how the humid climate and sandy soil affect human corpses, The Tampa Tribune reports.

  A former mental health technician at Bayside Center for Behavioral Health is now facing additional charges as more victims have come forward after his arrest in January for sexual contact with underage patients, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

Nearly all of the 1.3 million Floridians who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act earned tax credits averaging $297 per person, per month, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Four cases of measles have been identified in Florida in the past two weeks, all of which involve travelers.

Two of the cases diagnosed involved international travelers, and the infected people had unknown or no measles vaccine, State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong said in a statement.

The Florida Department of Health reports that so far, no state residents have so far been diagnosed with measles, a disease that is experiencing the second-biggest outbreak in the nation in at least 15 years.

A federal indictment blames Dr. Edward Neil Feldman for three prescription drug-related deaths, but medical examiners records link to him to more than a dozen drug overdose deaths, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Three administrative complaints alleging Feldman of malpractice are pending with the Florida Board of Medicine.

Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital are partnering to build a $60-million “healthplex,” start a home care agency and offer hospice care, the 

WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Florida’s largest Medicaid HMO provider, announced Monday that Kenneth Burdick will be appointed as CEO, according to a statement released by the Tampa-based company. 

As the next crop of Florida legislators met for the first time in Tallahassee on Tuesday, health care advocates and the new leader of the Senate Democratic caucus pushed for Medicaid expansion. 

The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg will host a group of African journalists after their original hosts, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's Department of Journalism and Media Studies, canceled over concerns of the spread of the Ebola virus. 

The visit is part of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, which brings 100 international journalists to the United States each year. 

More than 35,000 Florida residents have lost the health insurance they enrolled in under the federal health law because they didn’t prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency status by Sept. 5, the Miami Herald reports. 

Former Orlando Health patients may have to help repay the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after a federal audit discovered the hospital overbilled Medicare by $1.45 million, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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.

The number of health insurance companies offering plans in the marketplaces this fall will increase by 25 percent, giving consumers more choices for coverage, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced Tuesday.

When the marketplace enrollment reopens in November, 77 new insurers will be offering coverage in the 44 states for which HHS had data, which includes the 36 states that use the federal marketplace and eight states that run their own, the department reported.

The University of South Florida has dropped its $4 million specialty clinic project in the Villages senior community after just six months, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain is well known, as is the company’s record $1.7 billion fine for filing false claims for Medicare and other federal health programs.

But as he faces re-election, stories about a simultaneous investigation in the 1990s are emerging involving Scott and attempts to buy the then-publicly owned Tampa General Hospital, The Tampa Tribune reports.

Human trafficking is the topic of a special Florida Matters show scheduled to air Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and again Sunday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.  A panel discussion on the issue was recorded Wednesday at Tampa's Centre Club, sponsored by the Florida Medical Clinic Foundation of Caring.

Lakeland Regional Medical Center’s plan to launch a medical residency program could hinge on a meeting between hospital leadership and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator today, the Lakeland Ledger reports.

About 1,200 Floridians with critical needs will be getting enrollment letters from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities in the next two weeks.

Those with critical needs on the agency’s waiting list as of July 1 will be offered enrollment in the Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver.

  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is applauding Florida’s crackdown on “pill mills” in its most recent Vital Signs report.

The University of South Florida has donated 1.4 acres in downtown St. Petersburg to All Children’s Hospital for a “research, education and training facility” that would benefit pediatric care, the two organizations said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

WellCare Health Plans

Dave Gallitano, chairman of WellCare Health Plans Inc., seems to be settling into the role of CEO that he's been filling on an interim basis with the announcement that Kenneth A. Burdick has been named president and chief operating officer.

WellCare has not officially called off the national search for a CEO. But Stifel analyst Tom Carroll said it looks as though Gallitano is comfortable in the role.

U.S. News and World Report has released its annual guide to the best adult and children’s hospitals around the United States.

As usual, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami topped the category of ophthalmology.  None of Florida’s children’s hospitals made the top three in any specialty category nationwide.

After a weekend scare, in which more than two dozen people were treated at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, the threat from a bad batch of synthetic drugs called “spice” eased, with five remaining hospitalized. But health and law enforcement officials are on the alert for more cases, according to The Gainesville Sun.  

 

After an embarrassing article appeared in The Miami Herald in September, a regional supervisor for the Department of Children and Families ordered workers not to file required incident reports on the deaths of children who were supposed to be safeguarded by DCF, the Herald reports.

The interim CEO of WellCare Health Plans says he’s trying to move past the company’s troubles and focus on expanding its Medicare, Medicaid and prescription drug business, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

  Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, is sponsoring a bill that would speed up the firing process for senior executives at the VA, the Associated Press  reports. The bill comes amid whistleblower reports of delays in treatment and deaths at VA facilities, including allegations that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a VA in Phoenix, Ariz.

Todd Farha, former CEO of WellCare Health Plans, drew a three-year sentence for Medicaid fraud Monday, far below the sentencing guidelines. The judge said Farha has already suffered the loss of his reputation and career and that he is unlikely to repeat his "mistake."

Other former WellCare executives also drew sentences lighter than the guidelines:   former CFO Paul Behrens, two years; William Kale, who led the subsidiary where the fraud took place, one year and one day; and Peter Clay, a former vice president, who received probation.

Two Orlando hospital workers who had been monitored for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome after coming into contact with a Saudi MERS patient have been found negative, several media outlets are reporting Wednesday.

But as a precaution, health officials are monitoring other hospital staff and physicians who were exposed to the 44-year-old man either during his stay at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, which began May 8, or a visit three days earlier to Orlando Regional Medical Center.

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