Category Archives: Health care reform

Health care delivery reform and what it means in the delivery room

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.

Courtesy of Neel Shah, M.D.

Courtesy of Neel Shah, M.D.Health reformers are grappling with how to bring down the high rate of cesarean section deliveries in the United States. The U.S. isn’t the only country in the world overusing the procedure, but it does have one of the highest rates.

I recently heard Neel Shah, M.D., an obstetrician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the founder of Costs of Care, and associate faculty at Ariadne Labs (more about all of that here) speak about health care quality and delivering babies.

We’ve all heard about unnecessary cesarean sections (and elective induced early births, although that’s a related but not identical set of challenges). Many of us tend to think of it as a doctor-centered issue. Some doctors perform more C-sections than others and there are a host of reasons, ranging from how and where they were trained to how they assess and tolerate maternal risk to time management and financial considerations.

But Shah challenged me to think of unnecessary C-sections as a hospital management or system engineering problem – not just a problem created by individual doctors. Continue reading

Covering how King v. Burwell decision could affect subsidies

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.

Lauren Sausser

Lauren Sausser

Lauren Sausser of The Post and Courier in South Carolina was surprised by an email from a reader asking her to write more about Medicaid expansion in South Carolina – specifically, the state’s refusal to expand the low-income health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act.

This year, health insurance subsidies have played a much more prominent role in The Post and Courier’s health care coverage. Like other news outlets, her newspaper is waiting to find out what the Supreme Court decides in King v. Burwell. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, subsidies will end in states using the federal exchange.

In South Carolina, a King victory would mean that coverage will become unaffordable for an estimated 200,000 people who have purchased subsidized policies through the federal insurance marketplace. It’s been a big story. Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion, with a few exceptions, is relatively stagnant there.

Read more about her reporting on the topic.

Another report casts skeptical eye on patient satisfaction surveys

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.

Photo" PINKÉ via Flickr

Photo” PINKÉ via Flickr

After we posted in May on issues concerning hospital patient satisfaction surveys, the Hastings Center, a Garrison, N.Y., research institute focusing on bioethics, published its own skeptical report. The full text requires a purchase, but the abstract raises some of the same questions we addressed and brings up a few more.

“The current institutional focus on patient satisfaction and on surveys designed to assess this could eventually compromise the quality of health care while simultaneously raising its cost,” authors Alexandra Junewicz and Stuart Youngner write in Patient-Satisfaction Surveys on a Scale of 0 to 10: Improving Health Care, or Leading It Astray?

Their main worries: Continue reading

Some dental clinics seeing influx of Medicaid clients under ACA

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.

Thanks to Medicaid expansion and stepped up enrollment efforts under the Affordable Care Act, adults in some states including Oregon, are now eligible for dental benefits.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo playerReporter Grace Joyal, of KTVZ-Bend, Ore., recently visited a rural dental clinic that has been coping with a significant increase in new patients.

“Since January 2014, the Oregon Health Plan reports that almost half a million people have signed up for the state’s version of Medicaid,” Joyal reported. “The Affordable Care Act has meant a massive influx of patients for dental clinics.” Continue reading

Return to McAllen illustrates changes ACA has brought to health care system

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.

Photo: Peter Dutton via Flickr

Photo: Peter Dutton via Flickr

In June 2009, Atul Gawande wrote an influential New Yorker article, about the community of McAllen, Texas, which has some of the highest per-capita Medicare costs in the nation. At the time, “The Cost Conundrum” had a significant impact on the national debate over the legislation that would become the Affordable Care Act – not so much on the health insurance coverage aspects but about wasteful spending and flawed incentives built into our payment system.

McAllen was awash in waste, fraud and abuse, with millions spent on care of little to no value to the patient. The spending could not be blamed on socio-economic factors because nearby El Paso was a very similar community, but with half the per capita Medicare costs, and same or better outcomes. Gawande wrote this about McAllen: Continue reading

What that recent emergency department survey didn’t tell us

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.

emergency-roomEarlier this month many of us received a news release from the American College of Emergency Physicians about a survey that indicates emergency department visits are rising along with coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act. This was happening even though one important goal of the health law is to connect people with primary care physicians so they wouldn’t feel compelled to go to the ED for primary care.

While many of us ignored the release or, at most, wrote a brief; some large news outlets did give the survey big play, even linking the increase to expanded Medicaid coverage. The tone of that coverage, at least in a few pieces I saw, was that this was a negative development. Continue reading

Experts make some predictions about SCOTUS ruling

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. She is a member of AHCJ's board of directors, serving as liaison to the association’s local chapters and leading the one in Chicago.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonBruce Japsen, Dan Yunker, Marilyn Serafini and Stephani Becker (l to r) discussed the possibility of 8 million people losing health insurance, during a Chicago AHCJ chapter event.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonBruce Japsen, Dan Yunker, Marilyn Serafini and Stephani Becker (l to r) discussed the possibility of 8 million people losing health insurance, during an AHCJ Chicago chapter event.

Will fretting over King v. Burwell be remembered in the same breath as worries over Y2K?

Or will the calamity of 8 million people losing health insurance come true if the plaintiffs win their case at the U.S. Supreme Court? A ruling is expected in June.

With Alliance for Health Reform’s Marilyn Serafini acting as moderator, the Chicago chapter of AHCJ gathered on May 13 for a panel discussion on “The outlook for health insurance subsidies.” Continue reading

The ACA and patient satisfaction: Does it improve care?

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.

Alexandra Robbins

Alexandra Robbins

The ACA made many changes to Medicare. One of them involves linking part of hospital pay to patient satisfaction.

In an Atlantic magazine essay adapted from her new book, “The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles With the Heroes of the Hospital,” Alexandra Robbins argues that hospitals are missing the point: the way hospitals are defining, measuring and achieving patient “satisfaction” is not advancing the quality of care.

Robbins overstates that the amount of Medicare payments tied to patient satisfaction and understates the role of outcomes (more on Medicare’s Hospital Value-Based Purchasing later). But her essay is provocative and worth thinking about for those of you who cover the hospital industry or your local hospitals, and how they are changing under the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

Conference panel generates ACA resources, story ideas #ahcj15

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.

Anyone who is moderating a session at an AHCJ conference is lucky to have AHCJ board member, Associated Press medical writer, and Twitter extraordinaire Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) in the audience. Here, she’s Storified her Twitter stream from the session “Politics, Policy and People: ACA report card.”

Our speakers were David Blumenthal, M.D., president of The Commonwealth Fund; Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., senior vice president for executive operations, Kaiser Family Foundation (she oversees its polling); and Lanhee Chen, Ph.D., David and Diane Steffy research fellow, Hoover Institution. On Twitter, they are @DavidBlumenthal, @mollybrodie and @lanheechen. Continue reading

Reporters offer state, local story ideas for covering ACA #ahcj15

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.

The first day of Health Journalism 2015 featured a session “The ACA: Will it survive? And how to cover it now” with Kaiser Health News’s Julie Appleby and Vox’s Sarah Kliff. Their major themes included:

Julie Appleby & Sarah Kliff

Julie Appleby & Sarah Kliff

  • The King v. Burwell Supreme Court case over federal subsidies
  • What’s next in Congress?
  • Exchanges
  • Medicaid
  • And – the topic that got by far the most attention from the crowd – narrow networks.

Here are some of their highlights and story suggestions, with an emphasis on stories that state and local reporters can tackle. (Here are Kliff’s slides.) Continue reading