Lottie Watts


Lottie Watts is our Florida Matters producer, and she also covers health and health policy for Health News Florida.

She earned a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from University of South Florida St. Petersburg, where she was the editor and graduate assistant at the Neighborhood News Bureau. She earned a bachelor of science in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University, where she interned at WSTM-TV and WSYR-TV. Her work has been recognized by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists, Florida Associated Press Broadcasters, Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine State Awards, SPJ's Green Eyeshade Awards and RTDNA's Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards

Contact Lottie by email or phone: 813-974-8705. 

Ways to Connect

Lawmakers in the Florida House have rejected an amendment that would have used federal funds to provide health insurance coverage to 1.1 million uninsured Floridians. 

The amendment, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, was the plan sponsored by state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. His plan, called Healthy Florida, has the support of Senate Republicans, Democrats in both chambers, Gov. Rick Scott, big business and most of all the hospitals.

Miami Herald

The state Agency for Health Care Administration has ordered a Pasco County assisted-living facility for young, disabled adults to close, the Miami Herald reports. Hillandale Assisted Living Facility in New Port Richey was featured in a 2011 Herald investigation that uncovered abuse at ALFs around the state.

There are thousands of videos on YouTube with young people trying something called the "cinnamon challenge." People try to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in less than a minute without any liquid. They sputter, cough and choke from the dry powder. 

"If you think about it, there's nothing about this that makes people feel good, except maybe looking at the video after the fact," said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "And for some, it could have short-term or even lifetime health risks." 

University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center say sequestration budget cuts are hurting their work, since most of their grants come from the National Institutes of Health, the Tampa Tribune reports. Moffitt, which expects to lose more than half its budget for cancer research, says it expects delays and layoffs.

The House Appropriations Committee today passed HB 7169, a measure that creates a program called Florida Health Choices Plus, that will cover about 115,000 people.  

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that a suspicious package discovered Thursday morning at the Port of Tampa did not contain explosives. Terminal 3 had been shut down as a precaution after two specially trained K-9s alerted to the same item at a dock near a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The lawnmower that accidentally severed both of 2-year-old Ireland Nugent’s legs may be an older model not equipped with a safety feature that stops the blades from spinning when it’s in reverse, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The girl’s mother hopes that Ireland’s young age will help, and that she won’t remember her father backing up the lawnmower in this accident.

For six years, the family nanny sexually abused Lauren Book.

As a survivor, she has made it her mission to prevent other children from being abused. She's walking across the state for the fourth "Walk in My Shoes" campaign. It's a 1,500-mile journey that will end in Tallahassee, where she will press for a new law to help children who have been abused.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says Joshua and Sharyn Hakken, who are charged with kidnapping their two sons, are being held in the Orient Road Jail in Tampa. They were found in a marina in Cuba yesterday and were brought back to Florida early this morning. The sheriff says the boys will be returned to their maternal grandparents.

Even though seven counties in Florida have laws on the books that regulate background checks at gun shows, they are mostly ineffective, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Law enforcement officials admit they don’t enforce the rule. One gun show organizer says the rule has no impact, since sellers mostly ignore it, too.

Robert Jordan won’t face any charges for growing two marijuana plants to treat his wife's illness, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. Cathy Jordan suffers from the paralyzing disease ALS, and prosecutors decided not to press charges because her husband would likely win in court with a medical necessity defense.

Lawmakers on a Senate health policy committee voted along party lines this afternoon in favor of State Sen. Aaron Bean's plan to help uninsured Floridians. It's an alternative to State Sen. Joe Negron's "Healthy Florida" plan, which he presented after lawmakers rejected Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Smart but physically disabled students often end up in classes for students who are mentally or behaviorally challenged, the Tampa Bay Times reports. This is the inspirational story of one boy in that situation who fought hard to be included in mainstream classes.

Frustrated by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, 29-year-old Nicole March has turned to to garner support to get federally funded nursing care for her 90-year-old father, who served in the military during two wars, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Federal agents entered the downtown St. Petersburg headquarters of Universal Health Care this morning around 8 a.m. and made employees leave, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The company, declared bankrupt a few weeks ago, was turned over to the Florida Division of Financial Services for liquidation as of April 1. About 800 employees are being laid off, and around 100,000 Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in Universal plans are affected.

Patients who have insurance through Universal Health Care won’t have it after April 1, the Tampa Bay Times reports. As part of the state’s takeover of the troubled St. Petersburg-based insurer, thousands of Medicare and Medicaid members will have to switch to a different plan.

Sarasota County can still boast it's in the top five counties in Florida on the annual health rankings report from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The state Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act wants Florida to pay for health insurance for temporary state employees who work more than 30 hours a week. 

State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said going along with this part of the new federal health law is the best option.

Attorney John Morgan, who founded a huge plaintiff’s law firm based in Orlando, will lead the effort in Florida to legalize medical marijuana, the Tampa Bay Times reports. He has the money to spend and a personal reason behind it: He says marijuana was the only thing that helped his father when was sick with cancer and emphysema.

According to 35-year-old Lisa Epsteen, who is pregnant with her fifth child, her obstetrician threatened to get law enforcement involved if she didn’t get to the hospital right away for a c-section, the Tampa Bay Times reports. His e-mail to her said he worried that her fetus would die or suffer brain damage if she delayed. She called in advocates for patients’ rights.

Florida House of Representatives

A Florida House committee on the Affordable Care Act said today Florida should not accept billions of dollars in federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to nearly 1 million uninsured residents under the new federal health law.

The House committee voted along party lines this afternoon against Medicaid expansion. Naples Republican Matt Hudson says he doesn't believe the federal government will actually pay for the cost of the expansion.

Rescuers are trying to figure out how to reach a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that opened up under his bedroom last night. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials say they can see “no signs” of Jeffery Bush, and had to halt the rescue operation until engineers could stabilize the hole. The hole is thought to be at least 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep.

Lottie Watts

These stories are part of our continuing coverage of the Affordable Care Act in Florida. 

Why Are 'Navigators' Needed for Obamacare? aired Aug. 22.  In Florida, several non-profit organizations got $7.8 million in grants to pay for "navigators" to help people enroll in a health insurance plan on the online Marketplace. 

Myra Stringfellow

Floridians who receive cash and food assistance are once again able to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards  after technology issues at JPMorgan Chase shut down the system for six hours, according to Florida Department of Children and Families.

The outage started at 7 a.m. During that time, stores could opt to manually process transactions up to $40. At Wal-Mart, they could run transactions up to $100, according to DCF.

But at one Wal-Mart in Town 'n' Country, they weren't even processing the transactions manually, said customer service manager Bibti Vora.