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Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer

Jodie Tillman

Jodie Tillman covers the health and medicine beat. She started at the Times in May 2006.

Phone: (813) 226-3374


Twitter: @JTillmanTimes

  1. Health care exchange deadlines approach


    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....

    These two examples from the ProPublica Web application show that premiums aren’t the only factor to consider when buying insurance. Notice that while premiums are rising for both plans, the deductible and maximum out-of-pocket costs are going up for the BlueCare plan and down for the myCigna plan.
  2. Tampa Bay hospitals vie to get into hospice business


    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....

  3. State medical board orders Clearwater doctor to get mental evaluation


    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....

  4. Board of Medicine committee votes to hike cost of medical records


    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....

    Florida rules allow health providers to charge patients $1 per page for the first 25 pages of patient health records, and 25 cents per page after that. A proposed change would allow $1 charges for every page, including print and electronic copies.
  5. BayCare CEO announces retirement


    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....

    Tommy Inzina, 56, BayCare’s current chief financial officer, will take over for Steve Mason in 2016.
  6. Choking hazards top list of toy dangers, consumer group says


    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....

    A toy doll is shown during a hazadous toys news conference held by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, December 1 in Washington, DC. [Getty Images]
  7. Obamacare challenge: Getting Hispanics to buy health insurance


    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....

    Navigator Dianelys Dominguez, left, assists Giovanny Vega, 18, of Miami sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 17 at the Borinquen Medical Center.
  8. Two children, one from Pasco County, die from flu-related complications, state says


    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....

  9. Study shows Obamacare plans, and subsidies, rising in Tampa Bay area


    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....

  10. At USF visit, Obama official talks up health care law


    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 opened for its second year of business. She said more than 100,000 consumers submitted applications through 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....

    Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, left, spoke Monday at the University of South Florida in Tampa. At rear is U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.
  11. Tampa Bay experts discuss Ebola preparedness


    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....

  12. Obamacare open enrollment: Compare to save money, hassles (w/video)


    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....

    The website. 
  13. Medical program helps homeless recover after release from hospital


    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....

    Pinellas Hope has 10 “casitas” reserved for homeless patients who have been recently discharged from BayCare’s Pinellas hospitals but still require some level of rest and care.
  14. Cigna agrees to lower drug costs for Florida HIV patients in Obamacare plans


    TALLAHASSEE — One of the four Florida insurers accused of overcharging HIV and AIDS patients for their medications has agreed to take steps to reduce those costs, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced Friday.

    Cigna is the first of the four insurers to agree to change how it handles HIV medications. The insurer admitted to no wrong-doing in an agreement with state regulators but said it was making the changes partly to avoid litigation....

  15. Report: Many Florida children still have no health insurance


    A new report shows Florida had the highest percentage of uninsured children in the Southeast last year, and one reason is that so many of their parents don't have coverage, advocates say.

    In Florida, 11.1 percent of children were uninsured in 2013, according to the report from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families. That's about 445,000 children.

    Florida fared fifth worst in the nation, behind Nevada, Texas, Arizona and Alaska....