Carol Gentry

Carol Gentry, founder and editor of Health News Florida, has four  decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.

After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.  She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996.  She directed a journalism fellowship program at CDC for four years.Contact Ms. Gentry at at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.

Two weeks before the federal Health Insurance Marketplace opens for enrollment, a major national company is withdrawing its Florida plans from the exchange. 

A doctor accused of giving a toddler a fatal dose of an unapproved drug was declared “very, very dangerous” at a meeting of the Florida Board of Medicine on Friday. But she escaped serious discipline by agreeing to go away and stay away.

A doctor accused of sending sexually explicit videos and texts to a patient should be barred from treating females and should be suspended until he completes a psychiatric evaluation, the Florida Board of Medicine said Friday.

Federal health officials are issuing audit reports and rushing to collect $267 million in alleged overpayments to some Florida hospitals to close the books on an old program, says Florida Hospital Association President Bruce Rueben.

FHA argues against a rush to judgment, saying some of the audits are still preliminary. Also, the group says, it’s unreasonable to expect hospitals to repay millions of dollars in one year. 

The 2014 Florida Legislature passed a number of bills relating to health care, most of them modest in scope. 

But at least one that passed will probably save lives: the Child Welfare Act, which in part responds to the deaths of 477 children who were supposed to be under the protection of the Department of Children and Families.

Judging from what they say and what's in the proposed state budget, Florida's top elected officials care about children, the elderly and the seriously disabled. Also, businesses of all sizes.

Others -- including the poor, the uninsured and state workers -- get less attention. There is  no provision for low-income adults to get health insurance, even though the money is available, and most state workers won't get a raise. The good news for state employees is that there won't be big staff cuts, for a change.

Florida Blue may have bitten off more than it can chew with its new plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Carol Gentry / WUSF

While most of the uninsured will be able to get subsidized health coverage Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, the poorest adults under 65 will be out of luck in many states, including Florida.

You could call them “The Forgotten.”  Many are women in their 50s and 60s, too old to have children still at home so they can’t qualify for Medicaid. But they’re not yet 65 so they don’t qualify for Medicare, either.

One of them is Debra Straley, 56. She has no job and no health insurance, but luckily can get her high blood pressure pills at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has become the Obama administration's envoy to Florida on behalf of the Affordable Care Act. She has visited the state half a dozen times since June, trying to get the word out to the state's millions of uninsured to sign up for a health plan.

Recently, she visited the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, where Health News Florida editor Carol Gentry spoke with her.

Pinellas County government officials suffered a blow Wednesday when they learned about the state Department of Health's order barring enrollment Navigators from local health department property.

The Navigators are supposed to fill a key role in carrying out the Affordable Care Act by helping uninsured people enroll in health plans that are to be offered through an online Marketplace, which is to open Oct. 1.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is defending his plan to use the federal Homeland Security database known as SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) to search for noncitizens on Florida voting rolls.

During a Nov. 4 hearing before the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections, Detzner said using SAVE to check voter registration is one of its primary uses.

Dwayne Scheuneman is a Navy veteran who was paralyzed after a diving accident.  But thanks to his drive and determination, he has become a successful wheelchair athlete – most recently winning four gold medals and three silver medals in track and field at the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Despite his athletic success, Scheuneman is more comfortable on the dance floor than the racetrack. But it opens him up to some friendly teasing from other veterans.

University of South Florida will receive the lion's share of "Navigator Grants" being issued for Florida, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is to make the announcement at USF at noon. (An updated article will be posted following the press conference.)

The list of grants released for Florida totals around $7.8 million -- more than the $5.8 million that had been expected.

Florida’s private homeowners’ insurance market is “the worse it’s ever been” in the past five years according to Michael Letcher, president of the Home Insurance Buyers Guide.

“To me, the health of the market isn’t how many policies are available in the private market but what kind of choice does a customer have and what kind of ability do we all have to shop our policies,” Letcher said.

It appears increasingly likely that the legislative session will end on Friday without agreement to accept more than $50 billion in federal funds to cover an estimated 1.1 million uninsured Floridians. 

If Florida doesn't take the money, many of the poorest adults in the state -- those who have incomes under $12,000 a year -- won't be offered coverage on Jan. 1, when the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.

The Florida Senate is scheduled to vote on state Sen. Joe Negron's Healthy Florida plan on Tuesday, which would accept billions of dollars in federal funds through the Affordable Care Act to provide health coverage to 1.1 million uninsured low-income Floridians.

Negron, R-Stuart, sounded determined but pessimistic on Monday, saying he doesn't see how the Senate's plan can be meshed with the House's version, which accepts no federal funds and would provide subsidies to about 115,000.

By a 71 to 45 vote, the Florida House of Representatives on Friday passed its own health plan, which relies on state money and bypasses more than $50 billion in federal funds. The vote, as expected, fell almost entirely along party lines, with Democrats opposed.

State Sen. Joe Negron, author of a plan to cover more than 1 million Floridians with private health insurance, offered an amendment on Wednesday intended as an olive branch to the Florida House. Health News Florida Editor Carol Gentry talks with WUSF’s Craig Kopp about the dueling plans.

What kind of health coverage can you buy for $20 to $30 a month?

"You can't," says John Sinibaldi, an independent broker in Seminole.  

That may sum up the real-world prospects for Florida Health Choices Plus, the plan for extremely low-income uninsured Florida adults that State Sen. Aaron Bean's Health Policy Committee approved Tuesday along party lines.

Bean said he offered it in the knowledge that it wasn't much, but was at least something that the Florida House leadership might accept.