TAMPA — He never drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes, but Wathik Bouslimi makes an exception to his otherwise moderate lifestyle: hookah smoking.
Bouslimi, a 32-year-old software engineering student at Strayer University, was smoking apple-flavored tobacco through a hookah — a traditional metal water pipe with a mouthpiece at the end of a flexible hose — as he studied at Kahwa Hookah Lounge near Busch Gardens one recent afternoon. He enjoys hookah smoking but has few illusions about its risks....
The third of four Florida insurers accused of overcharging HIV and AIDS patients for their medications has agreed to take steps to reduce those costs, advocacy groups announced Friday.
Humana signed an agreement with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation agreeing to reduce patient cost-sharing for all HIV drugs on the 2015 plans it sells on the federal marketplace in Florida.
Florida officials began investigating after two advocacy groups — the AIDS Institute based on Davis Islands in Tampa and the National Health Law Program — filed a federal complaint alleging four insurance companies had discriminated against HIV and AIDS patients....
Enrollment season for health insurance plans sold through the Affordable Care Act federal marketplace continues through Feb. 15. But if you want coverage to start Jan. 1, you've got just until Monday to pick a new plan.
Existing customers face a dilemma: If they don't pick a new plan by Monday, the federal government will automatically re-enroll them in their current policies. And that might come with surprises — some unpleasant....
Hillsborough and Pasco counties need more hospice programs to meet demand, state officials say, a declaration that has sent more than a dozen groups scrambling for the rare chance to expand their end-of-life services.
Among the applicants are three Tampa Bay hospital systems, all of which would be making their first moves into the local hospice market.
BayCare Health System proposes teaming up with Suncoast Hospice, which now serves only Pinellas County, to form a new nonprofit hospice program in Hillsborough and Pasco....
ST. PETERSBURG — A Clearwater physician once thought to be suffering from dementia should undergo a medical evaluation to see if he can continue practicing, according to a decision Friday by the Florida Board of Medicine.
Dr. Harry S. Wilks, 72, has been treating patients even though a treatment program in December 2010 requested he stop practicing until he completed additional testing. At the time, a state evaluator believed he had dementia, though a later test did not support that diagnosis....
ST. PETERSBURG — Patients seeking print or electronic copies of their medical records could see their per-page costs quadruple under a proposal endorsed Thursday by a key committee of the Florida Medical Board.
Currently, state rules allow health providers to charge patients $1 per page for the first 25 pages and 25 cents per page after that. The proposed change would allow $1 charges for every page, including print and electronic copies....
CLEARWATER — BayCare Health System's top leader announced Wednesday that he will retire in mid 2016.
Steve Mason, BayCare's chief executive officer and president, has served at the helm of the Tampa Bay area's largest hospital group since 2004. The not-for-profit system's board of trustees has named chief operating officer Tommy Inzina, 56, as Mason's successor. Inzina will assume the role of BayCare president on Jan. 1, while Mason, 66, retains responsibility for the overall organization as CEO until mid 2016....
ST. PETERSBURG — Add Hello Kitty and Dora the Explorer to the list of culprits that could ruin Christmas.
The annual holiday survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, released Monday, found choking hazards and toxic chemicals in a variety of items, some with famous faces.
The list includes dollar-store sheriff badges with high lead levels, balloons that could get stuck in children's throats and tiny batteries that, if ingested, could burn holes through their stomachs. Hello Kitty hair clips sold at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores made the list, as did Dora the Explorer backpacks from Walgreens, for containing too-high levels of phthalates, a type of chemical linked to reproductive development problems, the report says....
WIMAUMA — Away from the Saturday morning din of the village center, where residents sorted through yard sales and considered taqueria menus, Azusena Mendiola had a tougher decision to make:
What to do about health insurance.
An uninsured mother of four who works in a packing plant, Mendiola had come to an enrollment event at this farming community's Good Samaritan Mission to get help signing up for coverage through the federal marketplace....
The Florida Department of Health announced Monday the deaths of two children, one in Pasco County and one in Orange County, from flu-related complications.
Health officials refused to provide the ages and hometowns of the children.
The Pasco child had an underlying health condition, said Deanna Krautner, a spokeswoman for the Pasco County Health Department. Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the Pasco school district, said the child attended a district school but would not say which one. She said counselors were on hand last week for the student's classmates....
The prices of standard health plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace are increasing next year by double-digit percentages in the Tampa Bay region.
But 90 percent of Floridians who bought insurance on the exchanges received tax subsidies, and those could also go up enough to help soften the blow, according to a new analysis....
TAMPA — The Obama administration official overseeing the health insurance marketplaces said Monday that she's pleased with how the federal website is working so far and confident more than 9 million Americans will sign up for coverage by February.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell appeared at the University of South Florida's Tampa campus just two days after healthcare.gov opened for its second year of business. She said more than 100,000 consumers submitted applications through healthcare.gov on Saturday, though she declined to say how many of them had actually enrolled in a plan. About 7 million enrolled in marketplace plans for 2014....
TAMPA — Back in July, Dr. Douglas Holt got an invitation to help teach a one-day course on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Holt, the director of the Hillsborough County Health Department, agreed but wondered: Who's interested in Ebola?
Before long, he got an answer.
An infected Liberian man arrived in Dallas and two nurses who treated him were infected with the disease. A New York doctor who treated Ebola patients in West Africa tested positive for the disease upon his return home. A Maine nurse who had also volunteered in Africa but did not contract the disease fought a high-profile battle against attempts to quarantine her....
Bonnie James likes her health insurance plan, but she isn't going to keep it.
Her Florida Blue policy, purchased in the first year of the Affordable Care Act marketplace, comes with low out-of-pocket costs and a wide provider network. It was perfect this year since she has had to deal with a serious illness. The tradeoff: paying about $360 a month in premiums, even with a sizable subsidy....
LARGO — Roy Lee McDaniel ended up in the hospital earlier this year after doctors discovered a tumor on his spine. After surgery and therapy, he was ready to go home.
But McDaniel, 46, lost his construction job and apartment when he fell ill. With nowhere to recover, he faced a far greater risk that he'd quickly be back in the hospital.
But McDaniel got lucky: He was accepted into a small medical respite program at Pinellas Hope, the "tent city" and transitional housing campus run by Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg....