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Check Health Journalism 2015 highlights 

Health Journalism 2015

AHCJ’s annual conference is set for April 23-26 in Santa Clara, Calif., and will feature workshops, field trips and dozens of panels aimed at strengthening your coverage of health and health care issues.

Networking opportunities and resource sharing will round out the experience.  Check out the full lineup of events, including spotlight speakers, Freelance PitchFest and exhibitors.

To take advantage of the early-bird discount, register by March 13.

Under­standing and explaining King v. Burwell

Probably in late June, the Supreme Court will rule in King v. Burwell. The case challenges whether subsidies, in the form of tax credits, can go to people in states using the federal exchange, or only to those in the states running their own health insurance marketplaces. After the state cases and 2012 National Federation of Independent Business case, it is the third case that poses an existential threat to the Affordable Care Act. (Hobby Lobby and other contraception-related cases wouldn’t unspool the structure of the whole ACA, only that aspect of women’s preventive health.)

This case isn’t about whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. (The 2012 case was.) This is about interpreting the text, and whether the language of the law allows the subsidies in the federal exchange states.

Learn more about the landmark Supreme Court case from AHCJ Health Reform core topic leader Joanne Kenen.

HOW I DID IT: Latest updates

Gavel
Photo: ReSurge International via Flickr

AHCJ members can get data about medical training

In its ongoing effort to shed light on physician residency programs, AHCJ has announced a new benefit for members: Access to national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting.

AHCJ has worked with Doximity Inc. to provide members the first comprehensive national research on residency programs. Members can view national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting. Individual program data is calculated using a combination of aggregate public sources and Doximity network data.

Elder abuse and health: What you should know

webcast
Recorded Feb. 2

Elder abuse affects an estimated one in 10 older adults in the U.S., according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Advocates say much more can and should be done – such as the recent $4 million Congressional appropriation for a portion of the Elder Justice Act as part of the FY2015 Omnibus spending bill.

The many forms of physical and psychological abuse seriously affect older adults’ health and wellbeing. What is being done about it and how can reporters bring more of these issues to light in their own communities?

To find out, see our webcast with Liz Seegert, AHCJ’s core topic leader on aging, and Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition.

A reporters’ guide to Children’s Dental Health Month

webcast
Recorded Jan. 27

In advance of Children’s Dental Health Month, which is February, we discussed the latest research on oral health and how it may impact policy in the states. Shelly Gehshan, director of children's dental policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts provides perspective on oral health programs that are making a difference and the issues that may provide barriers to improving dental health.

Stories include how a program in North Carolina has improved children’s oral health by utilizing doctors to help apply fluoride varnish. Gehshan also discussed the benefits of dental sealant programs and some of the things at the state level that prevent these programs from reaching more children.

Tips for covering scientific conferences

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?

Mark Taylor recently attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the GSA, which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions. He also has covered other scientific conferences in his two decades as health care journalist, and he shares hard-earned wisdom on successfully covering such massive events. 

His tips include how to prepare before the conference, who to talk to, some key items to bring and how to plan out your coverage.

Covering how your community prevents falls, promotes safety for older adults

Liz Seegert
Liz Seegert

Every 15 seconds, an older adult falls. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and over. Additionally, the ACSM says that one in every three older adults takes a serious fall each year – resulting in more than 20,000 fatalities.

In 2012, 2.4 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments, with some 722,000 of these patients hospitalized, according to statistics from the CDC. These falls resulted in direct medical costs of more than $30 billion, and those costs are expected to skyrocket to between $44 and $54 billion by 2020 as the population ages.


Image: Rex Sorgatz via flickr

Research examines impact
of soda taxes on oral health

Is there a soda tax debate coming to your community? The potential for such taxes address problems with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are important angles to explore, but don’t forget the oral health aspect of the soda tax story.

While Berkeley, Calif., is the first city in the country to approve such a “sin” tax, it might have opened the door for other communities to do so.

Mary Otto has collected relevant research and resources for reporters who might be called on to cover soda taxes.

Five journalists named 2015 Reporting Fellows on Health Care Performance

The Association of Health Care Journalists has awarded five journalists AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance for work to be completed in 2015. The program, in its fifth year, is meant to help journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system as a whole.

The fellowship program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, is intended to give experienced print, broadcast and online reporters an opportunity to concentrate on the performance of health care systems – or significant parts of those systems – locally, regionally or nationally. The fellows are able to examine policies, practices and outcomes, as well as the roles of various stakeholders.

Tip sheet: Covering the links between housing, health

Broaden the conversation about health care to include questions about social support – especially safe, affordable and stable housing.

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 health care to include questions about social support – especially support for safe, affordable and stable housing. This tip sheet includes key stories to pursue and critical insights on the housing-as-health-care trend.

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.

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

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

SCOTUS: Some things to note as we wait for a decision
On March 4 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. A ruling is expected in late June – though it’s possible it could come earlier. The plaintiffs argue that the health insurance subsidies should only be available to people living in states running their own Affordable Care ...

Bipartisan, bicameral caucus launched to put caregiving in spotlight
Who says Congress can’t cooperate? Two Republicans and two Democrats yesterday announced the formation of the bipartisan, bicameral Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus to support family caregivers. U.S. senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and U.S. representatives Diane ...

When hospitals buy physician practices, patients hit with fees
WSB-Atlanta recently explored what happens when hospitals buy physician practices, which has been happening all over the Atlanta area. Prices for patients go up. The same physicians – in the same offices, with the same treatments – start charging more. “Everything is exactly the same,” ...

Under­standing, explaining primary issues of King v. Burwell
With oral arguments in King v. Burwell scheduled for tomorrow, the Supreme Court will likely rule in late June. The case challenges whether subsidies, in the form of tax credits, can go to people in states using the federal exchange, or only to those in the states running their own health insurance ...

Does UnitedHealthcare’s prior-approval rule mean more ‘mother-may-I’ medicine is coming?
The nation’s largest health insurer will require physicians and hospitals to request prior approval before doing most hysterectomies, a move that may indicate a trend toward more pre-authorization for tests and procedures. In a statement posted on its website, UnitedHealthcare cited evidence from ...




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