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

While genetic tests proliferate, journalists cite the lack of scientific evidence

Photo: Caroline Davis2010 via Flickr

Photo: Caroline Davis2010 via Flickr

The potential benefits of genetic testing are widely touted and drive greater interest in these tests – even though the validity of the science behind such testing remains unclear.

Charles Piller, the West Coast editor for Boston-based online news site Stat, recently reported on the lack of a firm scientific basis for a test that Proove Biosciences in Irvine, Calif., has been marketing as an “opioid risk” detector. Continue reading

The importance of addressing hospital-acquired superbug infections

Photo: Phalinn Ooi via Flickr

Photo: Phalinn Ooi via Flickr

For three years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have penalized hospitals when the institutions show unacceptably high rates of potentially avoidable complications, such as blood clots, bed sores, and infections, Jordan Rau reported last month for Kaiser Health News.

The federal agency this year added penalties for two hospital-acquired infections that result from germs resistant to antibiotics: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff). Continue reading

Report: Rate of uninsured Americans dropped in every state


The Commonwealth FundClick to enlarge image.

A new Commonwealth Fund report provides a good New Year marker on the uninsurance rate as a result of the Affordable Care Act. It also in a way offers a challenge to those in Congress who would repeal and replace it.

By 2015, one year after the ACA went into effect, the percentage of uninsured working age Americans fell in every state and the District of Columbia, particularly among those with low incomes who need health insurance the most, the report showed. Continue reading

Looking below the surface of those ‘outrageous hospital bill’ stories

Photo: RikkisRefuge Other via Flickr

Photo: RikkisRefuge Other via Flickr

We may need a new hashtag to supplement #surprisemedbills. Perhaps #shockingmedbills would fit because some bills are just that.

Recent coverage about a new mom in Utah who was charged $39.35 just to hold her newborn is a good example. Continue reading

Here’s what you need to know about new hospital readmission penalties

Emergency department

Photo by KOMUnews via Flickr

Since 2012, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has had a logical approach to getting hospitals to decrease high readmission rates within 30 days of discharge: It penalizes hospitals whose rates for patients with six specific conditions are higher than expected. Those conditions are chronic lung disease, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, heart attacks, heart failure, hip and knee replacements and pneumonia. Continue reading