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.

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

Opposition forces GOP senators to delay ACA repeal-and-replace vote

Photo by Sean Stayte via flickr.

Senate GOP leaders today scrapped this week’s planned vote on their version of Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation, with plans for a quick turnaround on the bill faltering in the face of fierce opposition from voters and a wide variety of interest groups.

After the Congressional Budget Office reported Monday that the Better Care Reconciliation Act would cause 22 million Americans to lose their health insurance, organizations representing physicians, hospitals, small businesses and Medicare patients and other interest groups said the BRCA would have a devastating effect on the health insurance system. Continue reading

Health plan execs fear Senate version of AHCA would gut Medicaid

Photo: Tax Credits via Flickr

The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill unveiled Thursday, would do little to promote better care via Medicaid, the federal-state partnership program that insures 75 million primarily low-income Americans that include children, the disabled and certain seniors, according to some insurers that specialize in Medicaid coverage. Continue reading

Hospitals, health systems struggle to define population health

Population health was a term that became popular as Congress was passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. In the seven years since then, hospitals and health systems have struggled to define the term consistently.

For example, you see from this article by Tamara Rosin for Becker’s Hospital Review that health system administrators use the terms “population health” and its twin “population health management” to describe what they do to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. The problem is that settling on one definition is a challenge, Rosin wrote. Continue reading

Writing about new subjects, pursuing fellowships help freelancers keep careers fresh

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJBara Vaida (speaking) moderated a panel full of advice for freelancers on how to keep their careers rewarding. Lynette Clemetson, director of the Wallace House for Knight-Wallace fellowships, talked about the value of a mid-career fellowship to reposition a journalist’s career.

Journalists desiring to keep their freelance career fresh might consider writing new types of stories for different publications, says Laura Beil.

Beil is a Dallas-based independent journalist who typically doesn’t write about sports but decided to change it up a bit recently by successfully pitching and writing an article about obesity among high school football players. Continue reading