health news florida

Who likes meetings? Anybody?

Didn't think so.

Now what if the meeting were held on the go instead of in a stuffy conference room?

If that sounds a little better, then try a walking meeting. You and your colleagues can talk shop and get some exercise.

Florida and several other states are wrestling with a decision: whether to expand Medicaid.

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act last year, the court said states could opt out of that part of the law. But it's key. It would provide coverage to millions of low-income Americans who currently have no health insurance.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he's concerned about how much expanding Medicaid would cost. But others charge the governor is exaggerating.

The state’s chief economist has warned the staff of Gov. Rick Scott that his Medicaid cost estimates are wrong, but Scott keeps using them anyway, according to a series of e-mails obtained by Health News Florida.

Couple Chooses to Fight for Tiny Baby's Life

Dec 17, 2012
Tampa Bay Times

When Kelley Benham and Tom French’s daughter was born at 23 weeks, doctors told them the situation was grim. Half the babies born this early do not survive. Every body part is underdeveloped at this age and many face disabilities.

The couple was told they would have to make a very tough choice: allow their baby to die or fight for her survival. They chose to fight.

The Affordable Care Act, as passed by Congress in 2010, assumed that every low-income person would have access to health insurance starting in 2014.

That's when about 17 million Americans — mostly unmarried healthy adults with incomes up to 133 percent of poverty, or about $15,000 a year — would gain access to Medicaid.

For all of you interested in health news, consider this a holiday present.

WUSF Public Media recently acquired Health News Florida, an award-winning website focused on explaining how health policy affects you and your family.

As of today, Health News Florida has a beautiful new website, with more health stories from NPR, and great audio and video as well.

Health News Florida also is producing a weekly radio feature that’s aired every Thursday on WUSF 89.7 and on public radio stations throughout the state of Florida.

One of the nation's largest health insurers has been shown the door by BayCare Health System, Tampa Bay's dominant non-profit hospital chain.

The dispute over money affects 400,000 United customers in employer, Medicare and Medicaid plans,  said Elizabeth Calzadilla-Fiallo, spokeswoman for the Florida division of the Minnesota-based insurer.

Medicare members are in open enrollment until Dec. 7, so those who want to switch to a different health  plan still have time to do so.  BayCare, in letters and newspaper ads, has been inviting them to make the switch.

Meanwhile, United has taken the unusual step of making some of the contract numbers public to back up its argument that BayCare is being greedy. For its part, BayCare says United owes millions in unpaid bills.

Customers are left in the middle.

Florida is making great progress in getting children enrolled in health insurance, according to a report released Tuesday. But the authors warn the trend could stall if the state rejects Medicaid expansion.

Between 2009 and 2011, despite the bad economy, Florida was able to reduce the number of uninsured children by 125,000, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.

Contaminated steroid injections for back pain may not be the sole source of infection sent out from New England Compounding Center, health officials say.

While the Florida Department of Health says it has notified 99 percent of all the patients in Florida who received the back injections, they now are concerned about products produced by the NECC.

"The processes that led to the contamination of steroids may have led to the contamination of other NECC medications," Armstrong said.

"The FDA has urged all patients, who since May 21 2012, have received any NECC injectable medications that they be notified of the possibility of infection."

Is there such thing as being too careful when it comes to buying health insurance? According to a recent study, seniors on average spend $368 more than they need to on their Medicare prescription drug plans.

According to the Health Affairs study, there are a few reasons for this.

1.) So many choices.

There are 1,736 prescription-drug plans available to Medicare beneficiaries under the Medicare's Part D benefit. That's about 50 plans per region; Florida has 35.

The Department of Health announced that the cases of fungal meningitis in Florida have risen to nine. A 52- year old woman and a 79- year old woman are being treated after getting steroid shots in the back at the Marion County Pain Management Center.

Nationwide 170 cases have been reported. Health Department Officials say all cases are a result of contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

There have been two deaths in Florida and 14 nationwide. An 83-year- old Marion County man died as a result of the contaminated back pain injection he received at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

In 2024, the trust fund that pays for Medicare is expected to be depleted. What should be done about the future of Medicare?

That's the issue Tampa senior citizens got a chance to tackle at the AARP's "You've Earned a Say" initiative forum at the Poynter Institute.

The audience voted on five questions with a hand held clicker.

1.) Should the qualifying age for Medicare be raised from 65 to 67?

No: 56 percent. Yes: 35 percent. Neither: 10 percent.

The Department of Health announced Thursday afternoon that an 83-year- old Marion County man died as a result of the contaminated back pain injection he received at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala.

His death marks the second in Florida and the 14th nationwide. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

“Across the country, we are seeing the number of cases increase, so it is not unexpected that Florida’s cases will rise,” said Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong.

After suffering from cardiomyopathy for more than three decades, 70- year old David Skand of Tampa found himself in a tough position--his heart had given out.

"My back was pretty much up against the wall," he said.

Skand's doctors at USF Health told him there might be a better option than surgery.

They recommended he join a clinical trial testing Neucardin, a genetically-engineered drug designed to treat chronic heart failure like his.

USF Health is one of 10 sites in the country for this study. Skand signed up.

"I really thought this would be a good opportunity to try something--and see if it would work out," said Skand,  a veterinarian who tests racehorses for drugs.

Doctors told Skand he could continue to take his normal heart medication while participating in the trial.

It's a troubling story authorities think will unfold over the next month or so. An untold number of Americans who got steroid injections in their spine to relieve back pain may end up with a rare fungal meningitis. The drug was contaminated with the spores of a common leaf mold — nobody knows how.

So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 35 cases of the fungal meningitis in six states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. Five patients have died.

Medicare open enrollment season is around the corner, and lots of bargain plans are available to beneficiaries who shop around. But will they?

Two-thirds of drug-plan enrollees say they won't bother, according to a survey released Wednesday by Medicare Today, a consortium of consumer and professional health groups. They see no reason to -- 90 percent report that they're satisfied with their plan.

But even if they're not satisfied, seniors often don't tackle the job of comparison-shopping. Experts call this "the lock-in effect," and it can keep beneficiaries from taking the pills they've been prescribed.

ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare vs. RomneyCandidateCare

Sep 28, 2012

The number of uninsured would soar and the health-care safety net would unravel under Republican candidate Mitt Romney's  health proposals, according to a report by three economists.

In Florida, the number of uninsured would grow by 500,000 by the end of Romney's first term, instead of dropping by 2.5 million if President Barack Obama is re-elected and the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, they said.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of teenagers in the United States quit high school without diplomas—an epidemic so out of control that nobody knows the exact number. What is clear is that massive dropout rates cripple individual career prospects and cloud the country’s future.

What, exactly, could one call the partnership proposed by University of South Florida and Lakeland Regional Medical Center, which the boards of both institutions will vote on in a few days?

It’s easier to say what it’s not.

It is not a typical affiliation between a medical school and a teaching hospital. It’s much more than that. But it’s not a buyout or takeover; both institutions maintain their own boards, doctors, and patients.

Twenty-two percent of high school dropouts say they left school to take care of a family member, according to a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These youth caregivers often sacrifice their own futures because there's no one else to look after their sick parents and grandparents.

Rachel Parks was one of those students. Watch the video below to find out more about Rachel's family and her life in her own words.

Why do students drop out of high school?

One surprising answer: more than one in five dropouts left school to take care of family members.

Rachel Parks dropped out of high school to take care of her mother when she was 17.

"Growing up, I watched my mom take care of her mom," Rachel says, "and that is where I think I got that."

University of South Florida has invited Lakeland Regional Medical Center to become the first member of what will become a multi-hospital system, USF President Judy Genshaft announced Wednesday.

The new entity, to be called USF Health System Inc., will create at least 200 residency slots and perhaps more,  resulting in the state’s largest medical-residency program, Genshaft said.

“The real winners are our patients,” Genshaft said. “This state needs doctors.”

A Tampa mental-health counselor who refused to turn over her patient records to the state has won the right to keep them confidential.

Joanna Theiss Mulder was allowed to withdraw as an expert witness in a case brought by the  Agency for Health Care Administration, rather than turn over records of sessions  with her mentally disabled clients at Hillandale Assisted Living in Pasco County.

We have big news today here at WUSF Public Media.  Health News Florida, a non-profit website with a substantial following, is now part of WUSF.

This means we're also being joined by Health News Florida founder and editor Carol Gentry, who is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

I'm personally very excited to have someone of Carol's caliber coming to work with us at WUSF. It's just part of our commitment to provide in-depth coverage of health, education and other issues that are important to you.