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 http://health.wusf.usf.edu

Nearly every plant that we now depend on for food — from wheat to beans to tomatoes — comes from ancestors that once grew wild on hills and in forests.

In most cases, we don't know who, exactly, tamed those plants. We don't know which inventive farmer, thousands of years ago, first selected seeds and planted them for food.

The blueberry, though, is different. We know exactly who brought it in from the wild, and where.

It happened in the pine barrens of New Jersey.

Tallahassee Insiders Take Aim At Pot License

Aug 3, 2015

Influential Tallahassee insiders --- and a former lawmaker who is the grandson of one of Florida's most-renowned citrus barons --- have banded together with the owner of an abortion clinic to get in on the ground floor of the state's burgeoning medical-marijuana industry.

A Florida legislator wants a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, but the organization calls the request "politically motivated."

State Rep. Charles McBurney, a Jacksonville Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked for the inquiry in a letter Thursday to the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Psssst — Need a phony ID? A fraudulent tax refund? Insurance money from a sham car crash? Florida may have just what you're looking for.

Since the first settlers hacked their way into the mangrove tangles and drained much of the swampland, sunny South Florida has been virtually synonymous with shady deals and scams.

CVS Health Corp. deliberately overcharged some pharmacy customers for generic drugs by submitting claims to their insurance companies at inflated prices, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco.

The suit says those inflated prices led to higher co-pays for customers that exceeded what they would have paid for the drugs if they had no insurance and participated in a CVS discount program.

Sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law doesn't start for another couple of months, but the next few days are crucial for hundreds of thousands of customers at risk of losing financial aid when they renew coverage for 2016.

Florida’s top healthcare official says her agency was right to cite state planned parenthood clinics for violating abortion rules. But Planned Parenthood Florida maintains it did nothing wrong.

For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down.

One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder.

He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work.

“I see it as being an AIDS ministry,” he said.

President Barack Obama is unveiling an updated national strategy Thursday to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic that could have a big impact in Florida, which leads the nation in new HIV infections.

The White House unveiled the first national HIV plan in 2010, with ambitious, measurable goals: reduce new HIV diagnoses, increase the number of youth with an undetectable HIV viral load, and reduce the death rate from AIDS.

There’s been positive progress on all those, and there’s been a drop in the number of women, heterosexuals and IV-drug users contracting the disease.

TB Hospital Buyer Seeks Refund Over Land Estimate

Jul 29, 2015

A development company that acquired the site of the former A.G. Holley state tuberculosis hospital last year in Palm Beach County wants a $1.29 million refund from the state because the property has less land than advertised.

However, state officials contend that while the advertised acreage was an estimate, the Lantana property was sold under "as is, where is" terms.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will be asked next Wednesday to decide whether to approve the requested refund for Lantana Development LLC.

Evenflo photo

With the summer months heating up, many parents are taking their children on trips to the park, the beach and other attractions.

However, parents may need to be concerned about more than just sunburn and temper tantrums. Florida ranks number two in the nation for hot-car deaths among children.

Children’s bodies heat up faster than adults do, making them more susceptible to heat stroke in a hot car.

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.

Appeals Court Upholds Doctor-Patient Gun Law

Jul 29, 2015

For the second time in little more than a year, a federal appeals court Tuesday upheld a controversial Florida law that restricts doctors from asking questions and recording information about patients' gun ownership.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a victory for the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates and a defeat for medical groups that argued, at least in part, that the law infringed on doctors' First Amendment rights.

 The nation's respite from accelerating health care costs appears to be over.

Spending on health care will outpace the nation's overall economic growth over the next decade, the government forecast on Tuesday, underscoring a coming challenge for the next president, not to mention taxpayers, businesses and individual Americans.

A combination of expanded insurance coverage under President Barack Obama's law, an aging population, and rising demand, will be squeezing society's ability to pay.

Here's a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Insurers participating in Florida's new Medicaid managed care program say they've lost $542 million through 2014 and want the state to raise their rates. But after losing major federal funding for hospitals, Gov. Rick Scott doesn't want to use any more state money for the Medicaid program.

Scott and the insurers are locked in intense negotiations that could undermine the fledgling program that gives federal funds to private health insurance companies to oversee medical care for poor and disabled people instead of reimbursing doctors and hospitals for each service.

Challenge Looms Over Medical Pot Applications

Jul 27, 2015

Even before selecting five nurseries to become Florida's first legal pot producers, Department of Health officials will face a challenge from at least one grower whose application was tossed out because it was late.

The department's Office of Compassionate Use staff rejected two of the 30 applications from nurseries hoping to get chosen as one of the five coveted "dispensing organizations." Both were tossed because they were received after a 5 p.m. deadline following a frenzied scene during a torrential downpour July 8 at the agency's headquarters.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 25 years ago, "everybody was thinking about the iconic person in a wheelchair," says civil rights lawyer Sid Wolinsky. Or that the ADA — which bans discrimination based on disability — was for someone who is deaf, or blind.

But take a tour of New York City with Wolinsky — and the places he sued there — and you will see how the ADA has helped not just people with those significant disabilities, but also people with minor disabilities, and people with no disability at all.

Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding’s “Spotlight Transparency Tour” made its last scheduled stop Thursday at Miami-Dade College’s Medical Campus.

This meeting included a presentation from Steven Sonenreich, chief executive officer of the private non-profit Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. He said there’s an industry-wide transparency problem when it comes to the rates of services.

Health insurer Anthem has struck a deal to acquire rival Cigna for $48 billion — a buyout that would create the country's largest health insurer by enrollment.

The combined entity would have an estimated revenue of $115 billion and cover 53 million people in the U.S.

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