Author Archives: Joseph Burns

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.

One big question remains as single-payer coverage gains popularity: how to pay for it

Graphic: ACAsignups.net

The idea behind a single-payer health care system is simple: Have one entity pay for all health care. The result would be universal health insurance or coverage for all. This idea has long been politically unfeasible because it was considered to cost too much, disrupt almost 20 percent of the economy, and eliminate the need for employer-sponsored health insurance, which covers about half of all Americans. Continue reading

CBO: If Trump kills Obamacare subsidies, expect premiums and deficit to soar

Donald J. Trump

In a report that aligns with predictions by health insurers and groups such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday forecast that ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies under the Affordable Care Act not only would raise premiums for some low-income Americans, but also increase the federal deficit by $194 billion by 2026.

Congressional Democrats had asked both the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation to estimate the effect of cutting CSRs after this December – as President Trump has threatened – on the federal budget, health insurance coverage, market stability and premiums. Continue reading

Lawsuit claims UnitedHealthcare concealed Medicare Advantage enrollment fraud complaints

Credit: Kaiser Family Foundation
UnitedHealthcare has 4.6 million Medicare Advantage members, 24 percent of the U.S. Medicare Advantage market.

A recently unsealed whistleblower lawsuit claims that UnitedHealthcare concealed from federal officials hundreds of complaints of enrollment fraud and other misconduct in its Medicare Advantage program.

Brought by two UnitedHealthcare sales professionals in Wisconsin, this suit is worth watching because it is the third in recent months that whistleblowers have brought using knowledge they gained while working for Minnetonka, Minn.-based health insurance giant. Continue reading

Report on Cruz amendment shows how one option would affect insurance market

Photo: Matt Johnson via Flickr

With efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act sidelined, for now, it may be a good time take a closer look at a Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposal in case similar attempts to change insurance market regulation resurface when Congress returns from its August break.

Vox’s Dylan Scott has written that any significant reforms to Obamacare will not come until September at the very earliest, although some bipartisan discussion of ways to stabilize the individual market exchanges has begun. My AHCJ colleague Joanne Kenen in a recent blog post outlined various options going forward. Continue reading

For N.C. reporter, news brief led to series on solitary confinement, mental illness

Photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

In most states, care for those with behavioral health problems is so poor that the nation’s prisons have become the default treatment centers for many of the most vulnerable mental health patients. As Congress wrestles with plans to cut funding for Medicaid, many observers are calling for more coverage.

For an example of a mental health system that relies on state prisons, see the work of Taylor Knopf, a reporter for North Carolina Health News. In the spring of 2015, Knopf was working for the Raleigh News & Observer when an editor asked her to write a news brief about an effort to improve the state’s use of solitary confinement. Seeing an opportunity, Knopf made a few calls and did more than write a brief: Over the next year, she turned that assignment into a two-part series on how the prison system used solitary confinement to discipline inmates for even minor infractions.

In a new “How I Did It” article, Knopf writes about the series and how her reporting focused on one inmate’s struggle to adjust to life outside of prison after being held in solitary confinement for almost three years. Continue reading