Health News Florida

Since 2006, Health News Florida has provided in-depth journalism on health policy issues in our state.

Health News Florida is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at

Medicaid Expansion: Who's In? Who's Out?

Jul 6, 2012

In the week since the Supreme Court upheld almost all of President Obama's health care law, some of the biggest action has been on the Medicaid front, where the administration definitely lost.

Until last week, the Affordable Care Act was expected to drive an expansion of Medicaid to the tune of about 17 million more people being covered over the next 10 years.

The Affordable Care Act, as written, would have required states to provide Medicaid coverage to adults, whether they have children or not, with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Summer Safety: Heat-Related Illnesses

Jul 3, 2012

You've been hearing about the record-breaking heat in parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. It's not quite as hot here, but hot enough to cause heat-related illnesses. 

Summer is the time for "fun in the sun." That means more people will be outside in the heat. Health officials are reminding people to be safe about it.

Heat-related illnesses like heat stress, exhaustion, and stoke are more common in these hotter temperatures. 

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act have derided it from the beginning as "Obamacare."

Recently, something interesting happened. Supporters of the ACA, even President Obama, began to adopt the term "Obamacare" as well.

At that point, "Obamacare" began being used by NPR as well as media outlets throughout the country.

But former University of Michigan professor and Sarasota resident Stephen Cooper wrote in to say why he thinks we still shouldn't use the term:

Gov. Rick Scott says he won't implement key parts of the federal health care law, including Medicaid expansion.

But what about the nearly one million Floridians who are currently uninsured? Will they end up paying higher taxes if they can't afford health insurance, but Medicaid is not an option for them.

Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett asked Scott what will happen to Florida's uninsured if Florida doesn't expand Medicaid.

"Are you telling me if Florida opts out...all people in Florida will still be able to get health care?” Jarrett asked.

Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic.

As it turns out, the scariest part of Thursday's ruling on the Affordable Care Act was the issue that got the least attention. Yes, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate and its associated reforms of private insurance. But it also ruled that the law's expansion of Medicaid was unconstitutional.

Does that mean the Medicaid expansion might not go forward? Does it mean that a significant number of low-income Americans will remain uninsured because they can't get into the program?

Florida was the lead plaintiff in the 27-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.

Now that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, Governor Rick Scott tells Fox News he will not implement it.

"We're not going to implement Obamacare in Florida," Scott said. "We're not going to expand Medicaid because we're going to do the right thing. We're not going to do the exchange."

He says the law is too costly for Floridians and bad policy, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Scott hopes the law will be repealed after the November election, if a new president is elected. He says even if that doesn't happen, Florida will not set up a health exchange or participate in an expansion of the Medicaid program.

Scott says the state can't afford to add an estimated 1 million people to the Medicaid rolls -- even with the federal government picking up 90 percent of the cost.

"We can't pay for that; there is no way Floridians can pay for that," he said.

Florida was the lead plaintiff in the 27-state lawsuit against the ACA. Now that it's been upheld by the Supreme Court, Governor Scott says he plans to fight certain parts of the law.

1.) Scott says he'll form a plan to deal with Medicaid expansion in the next few weeks.

Just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, a cheer went up at Hispanic Health Initiatives, a nonprofit in Casselberry, Fla., just north of Orlando.

The enthusiasm for the Supreme Court's decision to uphold nearly all of the federal health care law was unmistakable at the nonprofit, which advocates for health care for the local Latino population.

The news took Josephine Mercado, the nonprofit's founder and executive director, by surprise — and changed her plans for Friday.

Dr. Jay Wolfson, a health care law expert with the University of South Florida and Stetson University talks about the Supreme Court's decision and the effect it will have on Floridians.

The Supreme Court's decision on whether to uphold the Affordable Care Act is being called the "decision of the century." 

It's expected to be announced tomorrow whether the high court will uphold the law,throw it out, or discard parts of it.

Jay Wolfson is an expert in healthcare law at the University of South Florida and Stetson University. 

If you thought sharks were the scariest threat at the beach, you might consider the lowly bacteria lurking in shore waters instead.

Courtesy of Purdue University

If you don't already hate Tropical Storm Debby, just wait. 

All the standing water from Debby will soon spawn pesky, disease-carrying mosquitoes,according to Steve Huard, Public Information Officer with Hillsborough County Health Department.

"So the community really needs to kind of get ready and think about the risks associated with all the mosquitoes that will be out and about and make sure they have their mosquito repellent with DEET in it and just be ready for the next onslaught," Huard said. 

He says the mosquitoes should be here in a couple of days. 

Dr. Ruben Quintero, who pioneered a surgery to correct twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and once directed USF's Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is now on the University of Miami team making international headlines for this groundbreaking procedure.

Flickr Creative Commons/ Jobs with Justice

Florida has the third-highest total number of deaths resulting from the lack of health care coverage. That's according to a new report comparing all 50 states by Families USA, a non-profit advocacy group.

And Florida doesn't fare much better on a per capita basis, either.

By that measure, Florida had the sixth-worst rate of uninsured people dying, only slightly better than much-poorer West Virginia.

The study says that in 2010, almost 2,300 Floridians between the ages of 25 and 64 died from the lack of care.

It's being called the "decision of the century."

Anytime between now and the end of June, the Supreme Court will rule whether the health care law championed by President Barack Obama will be tossed out as an unconstitutional. 

The state of Florida is leading the lawsuit, which says the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That mandate would require almost all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties. 

2 Reasons Why NYC Ban on Big Sodas Could Get Dumped

Jun 15, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban restaurants, movie theaters, and sports arenas from serving sugary drinks that are larger than 16 oz.

The goal is to reduce obesity related health problems in a city that spends billions of dollars dealing with these issues, but the ban  is meeting resistance from both businesses and from the public.

There are a few reasons why it could get dumped.

Seventeen-year-old Leah Culkar was at a neighbor's house when she was badly burned 11 years ago.

"It was the fourth of July. We were shooting off fireworks," Culkar says.

"It was a bottle rocket. The bottle tipped over. One of the fire works landed right in my lap and I had 3rd, 2nd, and 1st degree burns."  

3 Reasons Women Doctors Make Less Than Men

Jun 12, 2012

Female doctors/researchers make $12,000 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Men reported making slightly over $200,000 a year, while women reported $168,000.

Reuters Health says that even though the wage disparity between men and women is nothing new, there may be several reasons why the difference exists for doctors.

Schools Pass on "Pink Slime" Beef

Jun 12, 2012

The beef filler nicknamed “pink slime” in an article by the New York Times, has been served for decades in schools across the country.

Recently, The Department of Agriculture announced it will no longer be on the menu in several states.

Public schools in only three states - Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota - will continue to serve it.

Lean finely textured beef, the official name of "pink slime," is a meat byproduct additive that is made by heating the product and then treating it with a puff of ammonia to kill bacteria. The result is an inexpensive and leaner filler product.

If you're stung by a jellyfish or Portuguese man-o-war, how do you treat the pain?

Some emergency room docs at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center pored over all the scientific papers they could find to come up with answers based on evidence instead of intuition.