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Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance

The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance is a yearlong program allowing journalists to pursue a significant reporting project related to the U.S. health care system. The application deadline is Oct. 1.

The fellowshiop includes customized seminarss, conference calls, email consultations with mentors, AHCJ conferences and an allowance to defray the cost of field reporting, health data analysis and other project-related research. In addition, each fellow will receive a $2,500 fellowship award upon the successful completion of the project.

Six things to remember in reporting on health care costs

health care costsHealth care costs lack transparency and are wildly variable, not just from region to region but sometimes from block to block within the same city.

It is a complex topic, with chargemaster prices, what insurers paid and what consumers pay (if anything). Then there are the administrative rules set by Medicare and Medicaid and the negotiated rates between insurers and providers.

It's daunting, but three reporters have teamed up to offer guidance for reporting on health care costs.

Webcast: Breaking down barriers to care

AHCJ webcastRecorded Aug. 14
Covering health care requires writing about the cost of care. Determining if costs are rising or falling and by how much is an integral part of the beat.

But A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., the director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan, suggests it’s time to shift the discussion from how much the United States spends on care to how well we spend money on health care.

Join Fendrick and Joseph Burns, AHCJ's core topic leader on insurance, help explain this more clinically nuanced approach to financial incentives that involves setting consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for health care services and medications to motivate patients to do what research proves will help keep them healthy.

Is your community fighting tooth decay with school-based dental sealant programs?

Applying sealantsHave you visited a school-based dental sealant program in your state or community? There may be a good story there.

Can’t find one to visit? That may be another worthwhile story.

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to children’s permanent back teeth to seal the narrow grooves on the chewing surfaces and keep out decay-causing bacteria and food particles. Studies show that the procedure can reduce the incidence of tooth decay by 60 percent.

But poor and high-risk kids who could benefit the most from sealants are not always receiving them. 

2014 AHCJ-National Library of Medicine fellows chosen

AHCJ-NLM-FellowsEight journalists have been named to this year's class of AHCJ-National Library of Medicine fellows. The fellowship program was created to increase reporters' access and understanding of the considerable resources available at NLM and the National Institutes of Health.

Their visit to the NIH campus, scheduled for Sept. 7-11, will include hands-on workshops about how to use and get the most from several government research databases, such as PubMed, MedlinePlus, ClinicalTrials.gov and ToxNet. Fellows also will meet with senior NLM and NIH researchers and officials for exclusive informational sessions.

$200,000 grant strengthens reporting fellowship

AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation, has awarded the grant to the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the educational arm of the Association of Health Care Journalists, to continue a fellowship program that helps journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system as a whole.

The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance were launched in 2010.

New AHCJ board seated for 2014-15

Tony Leys and Charlotte Sutton

Charlotte Sutton, senior editor/health and politics for the Tampa Bay Times, and Tony Leys, a staff writer for the Des Moines Register, join four incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists' 2014-15 board of directors.

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Vice President Ivan Oransky, M.D., of MedPage Today in New York, AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News in Washington, D.C., Scott Hensley of NPR in Washington, D.C., and Irene Wielawski, an independent journalist in Pound Ridge, N.Y.

AHCJ names 2014-15 Regional Health Journalism Fellows

The Association of Health Care Journalists has named the 2014-15 class of the Regional Health Journalism Fellowship, an annual fellowship program for reporters and editors across the United States.

The program, which changes regions each year, will focus this year on journalists from the South Central United States, namely Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. The program begins in the next month. The first class of fellows came from the northern Midwest and Plains. The second class of fellows came from the Southeast, and the most recent class of fellows came from the West Coast.

Read more about the newest fellowship class.

Use data to cover the Affordable Care Act

Katherine HempsteadThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has six databases on its "Reform by the Numbers" website that can be useful for reporters covering health care. In an exclusive briefing at an AHCJ New York chapter meeting in June 2014, the Foundation's Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., discussed the highlights of the databases.

The databases can answer many questions, such as whether consumers are having trouble paying their sky-high deductibles or whether waiting lines are growing at doctors’ offices. Want to know how your state exchange differs from others? This data can help. Hempstead also offers ideas for stories that can be mined from the data no matter your technical abilities.

Joseph Burns
Joseph Burns

Covering premium rate increases for 2015?
Check out these resources first

As the nation’s health insurers file rate requests with state insurance departments, the news about health insurance premium increases is coming out almost daily now. The deadline for submitting rate requests on the marketplaces was June 27.

Premium rate review is an important story, but it’s a complex story. Here's some background on the process of premium rate review, as well as tools, resources and tips for doing the most nuanced and accurate reporting on this important topic.

Medicare payments data by state

The government release of information about Medicare payments to health professionals, a total of $77 billion in the single year of 2012, means unprecedented access to details of how public funds are spent. For 35 years, the data have been off limits to the public. The release has already generated stories by health journalists, with possibilities for more stories in the weeks and months ahead. To help with these stories, AHCJ has broken down the data by state in spreadsheet format for members to download.

Webcast: Finding fresh stories in newly released Medicare data

Craft a memorable pitch and get that assignment

AHCJ webcast

How can a writer, who's new to a publication, craft such an impressive pitch, that even if the story doesn't sell, keeps the door wide open for next time?

In this webcast, "Beyond the basics of pitching: Becoming that dream writer," a panel of top editors talk about pitches they loved and could not walk away from. 

Make your pitch communicate the story you want to tell, and impress editors in the process. 

Download CMS data on hospital costs

AHCJ offers federal government data showing what hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure. The 2011 data includes bills submitted by 3,300 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed treatments. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs.

Reporting on costs requires interview strategy, resources

The cost of medicines, devices, tests and treatment is such an important element of health reporting that it is included in AHCJ's Statement of Principles: "Strive to include information about cost and insurance coverage in any reporting of new ideas in medicine."

To that end, Brenda Goodman, AHCJ's topic leader on covering medical studies, and Michael Schroeder, who covers health for Angie's List Magazine, have contributed tip sheets to help reporters get that vital information. Goodman focuses on several resources where you might find pricing information, while Schroeder shares his strategy and the specific questions he asks sources about costs.

Association of Health Care Journalists Covering Health: An AHCJ blog

Connections between housing, health: Finding stories and getting the reporting right
Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., an expert on the impact of housing on child health, says journalists would do well to broaden the conversation about ...

Baseball’s Schilling blames tobacco for cancer; what do reporters need to know about links?
The ties between smokeless tobacco and baseball run deep. The immortal Babe Ruth claimed Pinch Hit was his chew of choice (as this short film from ...

More on understanding – and unearthing – health care costs
The post we did on Clear Health Costs got a lot of positive reaction so we asked the team involved in a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation-funded ...

New jobs, awards and more for AHCJ members
The latest AHCJ members in the news are Gerri Constant, Mari Edlin, John Gever, Rachel Gurevich, Janice Lynch Schuster, Eric T. Rosenthal ...

Award-winning journalist honored with scholarship in her name
A new scholarship for students who show promise in medical journalism will honor longtime health journalist Marianne D. Mattera, who died in July. ...




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