Medicare ‘doc fix,’ passed by House, shifts some costs to seniors

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2 on Thursday, a bill that would prevent an automatic cut of 21 percent in Medicare payments to physicians and would require seniors to pay more in the form of higher copayments and premiums. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 also would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years through 2017.

The vote was hailed as a step forward for physicians because it eliminates the formula Congress has used for many years to increase payments to physicians. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was renegotiated annually and usually at the last minute. It’s been replaced with an annual payment increase of 0.5 percent. The vote was 392 to 37, including 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats voting in favor, according to Govtrack.us.

The strong support from both Republicans and Democrats puts pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the bill, before Congress adjourns on Friday, Paul Demko wrote in Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

Welcome AHCJ’s newest members

Len Bruzzese

About Len Bruzzese

Len Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves on the executive committee of the Council of National Journalism Organizations.

Please welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ. All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves.

  • Ronald Campbell, staff reporter, Center for Health Reporting, Alhambra, Calif. (@campbellronaldw)
  • Fatima S. Faisal, student, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Apoorva Mandavilli, editor in chief, SFARI.org, New York (@apoorva_nc)
  • Jill Patton, senior editor, Experience Life Magazine, St. Paul, Minn.
  • LaRonda Peterson, managing editor, Kaiser Health News, Washington, D.C.
  • Lisa Schencker, legal reporter, Modern Healthcare, Chicago (@lschencker)
  • Emily Silber, student, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York

If you haven’t joined yet, see what member benefits you’re missing out on: Access to more than 50 journals and databases, tip sheets and articles from your colleagues on how they’ve reported stories, conferences, workshops, online training, reporting guides and more. Join AHCJ today to get a wealth of support and tools to help you.

ACA changes on the way, CMS official says

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

We tend to focus on the Affordable Care Act as a law that simply gives more people health insurance – and it has.

But as we’ve noted before, the health reform law also contains all sorts of programs and provisions that aim to change how health care is delivered: how we pay, what we pay for, and how we shift from a hospital-centric acute care system to one that stresses prevention, wellness and care and management of chronic diseases. Examples can be found across the country.

At a recent AHCJ webinar, Patrick Conway, M.D., deputy administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, gave an overview of some of the changes underway. Conway, whose job includes oversight of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, also announced the next big thing in Accountable Care Organizations. More on that below. Continue reading

Breaking down restaurant fees the way hospitals do

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Image: WHYY’s The Pulse & Don Greenfield

Image: WHYY’s The Pulse & Don Greenfield

It’s not often that we can tell you something about health care prices and also make you laugh … but we spotted a link to this on Twitter the other day and it’s priceless (no pun intended).

You all know by now that hospital bills make little sense, and that fee for service has its … shall we say … absurdities. Continue reading

Today’s aging boomers may be less healthy elders than expected, study says

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo by Mike Licht via Flickr

Image: Mike Licht via Flickr

New research refutes the common assumption that baby boomers are healthier than previous generations and will remain so into old age. Better education, higher income and lower smoking rates are offset by the negative impact of increasing body mass index and obesity-related health problems, according to a study in the current issue of the health policy journal Milbank Quarterly.

A longitudinal cohort study with 8,570 participants looked at the trajectory of self-rated health among four generations of Canadians: World War II-era (born between 1935 and 1944), older baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1954), younger baby boomers (born between 1955 and 1964), and Generation X (born between 1965 and 1974). In Canada, almost one-third of the population is between the ages of 46 and 65, according to the 2011 Canadian census. Continue reading

2014 winners named in top health journalism awards

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

awardsSoaring drug prices that make even copays unaffordable for many, an unchecked rise in robotic surgery, financial abuse revealed using previously secret Medicare data, and the health ramifications of the boom in hydraulic fracturing for oil were among the top winners of this year’s Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

Awards also went to articles that examined the “collateral damage” of urban violence, followed a team of doctors and scientists fighting Ebola, and exposed the growing number of unregulated diagnostic tests that can lead to patient harm.

Read the full announcement and see the winning entries. Congratulations to all of the winners!

D.C. journalists gather, meet with pharmaceutical representatives

Phil Galewitz

About Phil Galewitz

Phil Galewitz, a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News, helps lead AHCJ's Washington, D.C., chapter. At KHN, he covers Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care, hospitals and state health issues. He is a former member of AHCJ's board of directors.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsWashington, D.C., health journalists got together to catch up and make contact with communications official from several pharmaceutical companies on March 18.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsWashington, D.C., health journalists got together to catch up and make contact with communications official from several pharmaceutical companies on March 18.

About 25 journalists gathered on March 18 at Bistro d’Oc in Washington, D.C.,  for an AHCJ chapter happy hours event with top communications officials with PhRMA and several of its member pharmaceutical companies.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby (left), of Kaiser Health News, and  Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, with a representative of Bristol-Myers Squibb at the Washington, D.C., AHCJ chapter event on March 18.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby (left), of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, with a representative of Bristol-Myers Squibb at the Washington, D.C., AHCJ chapter event on March 18.

There was no formal program, just a chance to meet PhrMA officials and representatives of companies that included Novo Nordisk, GlaxoSmithKline and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Journalists from The Washington Post, Kaiser Health News, Politico, U.S. News & World Reports and Inside Health Policy were among those in attendance. AHCJ helped cover costs for journalists, who were asked for a voluntary $10 to defray expenses.

The event marked the third D.C. chapter event since December. For more info on  D.C. chapter events, contact Phil Galewitz at pgalewitz@kff.org.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey, both of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, (left to right) were among the journalists who attended the March 18 AHCJ chapter event.

Photo: Phil Galewitz/Kaiser Health NewsJulie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey, both of Kaiser Health News, and Laurie McGinley, of The Washington Post, (left to right) were among the journalists who attended the March 18 AHCJ chapter event.

Investigation reveals dental board’s lack of transparency

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by SalFlako via flickr.

Image by SalFlako via flickr.

How transparent is your state dental board when it comes to helping patients find out more about their dentists?

In Arizona, the state board of dental examiners has taken actions against hundreds of dentists in recent years. But it can be difficult for a patient in the state to find out if his or her dentist has been in trouble.

Linda Holt started worrying about the quality of her dental care after suffering complications from an implant procedure, Phoenix-based ABC-15 television explained in one part of a recent investigative series.

But if she had checked the profile of her dentist, Glenn Featherman, on the Arizona Board of Dental Examiner’s website she would not have been able to tell that he had recently been cited by the board for problems that arose with an implant procedure he performed on another patient. Continue reading

Interested in payment reform? Mark your calendar for these events

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

If you cover health care payment reform, then you know that health insurers, states, and the Medicare program are all developing methods to replace fee-for-service payment. Some of the new payment methods are just being discussed, some are in the pilot-project stage, and some have a multi-year record. All aim to promote what’s called value-based payment, which is designed to get physicians and hospitals focused on improving quality while controlling costs.

For those of us who cover this angle of the health care beat, this week will be a good one to learn what’s happening with a variety of payment reform models. Four webinars on payment reform are scheduled this week: one today and three on Thursday, March 19. Here’s a brief rundown. Continue reading

Personal story illustrates multiple barriers to health care, need for navigators

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by FutUndBeidl via Flickr

Image by FutUndBeidl via Flickr

Elizabeth Piatt begins the narrative of her reluctant journey into the Medicaid dental care system this way:

“In the spring of 2010 a terribly infected tooth forced my sister, Veronika, to the emergency department (ED). This story began, however, several months before. It is flica story of Medicaid, access to the best care, information and misinformation, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

Piatt’s piece, “Navigating Veronica: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” was featured in February’s Health Affairs. (AHCJ members have free access to Health Affairs.)

Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram Ohio, brings a social scientist’s eye and a story-teller’s flair to the tale. Continue reading