Trending News Today: Deadly Saltwater Bacteria Raises Alarms in Florida

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

After nearly 5 years, Partners in Health Care (PIHC) have been ordered to pay an $8.7 million restitution fee for their multi-state medical insurance scheme targeting seniors and Spanish-speaking customers, reported USA Today. In September 2011, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Wisconsin began an investigation after receiving numerous complaints from consumers in 32 states between 2011 and 2014. Consumers state that PIHC mislead them to believe that they were purchasing medical insurance, but instead sold them a worthless medical discount card. Consumer complaints also included product misrepresentation, delays in receiving funds, promised and full refunds not received, difficulty reaching the company, product not received in a specific time frame, and dissatisfaction with the product, according to the report. Gary L. Kieper, principle of PIHC, plans to appeal the decision. “If we called anybody that thought they accepted insurance, we refunded their money 100%,” Kieper told USA Today. “My intent was to be judged by a jury of my peers and not by a judge over an order.”

An increase of warmer waters and a case of a potentially deadly saltwater bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus prompted Florida health officials to alert the public to the risk of exposure to this rare infection. According to USA Today, the warning in Brevard Country came 2 days after state health officials in Volusia County made a similar statement, urging tourists and residents to take precautions to avoid contracting the rare bacterial infection. Scientists at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution said the bacterium typically occurs in warm and stagnant inshore waters near freshwater discharge areas because it can’t tolerate high salt levels. Thus far, there have been 13 cases in Florida this year with 4 deaths. There were 45 cases and 14 deaths from the bacteria last year.

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers announced the creation of a new workgroup that will focus on loosening government oversight of expanded or new health care facilities in Virginia. Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell and Senate President Pro-Tem Stephen D. Newman said they plan to rededicate themselves to changing the state’s certificate of need law, reported The Washington Post. This decades old law requires medical providers to first be approved and issued a certificate of need by federal or state health care agencies before proposed health care facilities, expansions, or medical equipment purchases are allowed.