Debunking myths designed to hinder price, quality transparency efforts

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.

When writing about transparency in health care prices and quality, journalists should expose the myths that health care providers promote. That’s the advice Francois de Brantes gave during a session on price and quality transparency at Health Journalism 2015 last month.

The executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute (HCI3), de Brantes (@Fdebrantes) said, “Call them on their bull sh–. Their arguments against price and quality transparency are bogus.”

Yet when state legislatures consider laws promoting the public reporting of health care prices and quality ratings, provider organizations often lobby against these laws. “What are they protecting?” he asked. “Doesn’t the public have a right to know?” Continue reading

Sociologist offers insights on health navigators, finding wider lessons in personal stories

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.

Elizabeth Piatt

Elizabeth Piatt

Trying to help her sister Veronika, who is disabled, with a dental emergency, Elizabeth Piatt found herself negotiating a labyrinth of personal feelings and Medicaid paperwork. The job of getting Veronika the care she needed was fraught with challenges. Piatt emerged from the experience with new insights into the Medicaid system that serves America’s poor, and a new sense of compassion for the patients who struggle within that system.

Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, also came out of the experience convinced of  the need for a better network of health navigators to help Medicaid patients find care and services.

Piatt shared the story of her journey in a  piece entitled  “Navigating Veronika: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” that was featured in February’s Health Affairs.

She shares further insights, as well as some tips on exploring a personal story for its wider lessons, in this AHCJ Q&A.

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

Panelists discuss health potential of wearables at #ahcj15

Michelle Tevis

About Michelle Tevis

Michelle Tevis is an assistant managing editor and WellCommons editor at the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World. She attended Health Journalism 2015 as an AHCJ-Kansas Health Journalism Fellow, a program supported by the Kansas Health Foundation.

Photo by Tim Gee via Flickr

Photo by Tim Gee via Flickr

We have a lot of cool gadgets, but how can they really improve our health? And can they change health care? We are in a state of wearables 1.0, so what does wearables 2.0 look like?

Andrea Kissack, senior science editor at KQED-San Francisco, asked those questions at the outset of the panel “Wearables: Possibilities for consumers and health professionals” at Health Journalism 2015. Continue reading

Report provides trove of story ideas, data on aging

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: U.S. National Archives via Flickr

Photo: U.S. National Archives via Flickr

May is Older Americans Month, which coincides with the Administration for Community Living’s annual profile of Americans over age 65. Their most recent report, Profile of Older Americans, 2014, tracks trends in aging from 2003 through 2013.

Not only is the data itself interesting – did you know nearly 70,000 Americans were over age 100 in 2013? – but the report provides a wealth of angles reporters can localize to advance discussion of aging issues in their community. Continue reading

Illnesses, injuries linked to medical devices a ripe area for investigation #ahcj15

Paul Sisson

About Paul Sisson

Paul Sisson covers health care for U-T San Diego. He attended Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-California Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by The California HealthCare Foundation.

CDC/ James ArcherAn outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) was linked to dirty duodenoscopes.

CDC/ James ArcherAn outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) was linked to dirty duodenoscopes.

Most medical devices marketed in the United States do not need formal approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Members of a panel at Health Journalism 2015 on medical device coverage provided a variety of advice for reporters covering and of the implants, instruments and diagnostic tools common to the modern medical machine.

Moderator of the session was Chad Terhune, a Los Angeles Times reporter who recently found himself chasing an outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) linked to dirty duodenoscopes. Contributing to the discussion were panelists USA Today investigative reporter Peter Eisler and Scott Lucas, associate director of accident and forensic investigation at the ECRI Institute. Continue reading

Communities may see water fluoridation levels drop because of revised recommendations

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.

waterStressing that community water fluoridation remains an important tool in fighting tooth decay, public health officials have updated their recommendation for the “optimal” level of fluoride in drinking water nationwide.

The new standard, 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, was announced on April 27 by the U.S. Department of Human Services.

The level replaces a recommended range of 0.7 mg to 1.2 mg of fluoride per liter of water in place since 1962.

The optimal level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considered to be when the amount fluoride in drinking water is adequate to help prevent tooth decay in children and adults while limiting risk of problems such as fluorosis, a discoloration or mottling of the tooth enamel that can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride. Continue reading

Health journalists gathered for training, networking in Silicon Valley #ahcj15

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.

Health Journalism 2015Nearly 700 people attended Health Journalism 2015, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists. The gathering, in California’s Silicon Valley in late April, provided journalists with expert speakers and panels on everything from hospital quality to a press briefing with the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a kickoff speech that many attendees talked about throughout the conference, Stanford physician and author Abraham Verghese, M.D., offered an eloquent description about the importance of how doctors care for patients. Continue reading

Amid turmoil in Baltimore, a story of hidden health care gaps

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Images streaming from the recent unrest in Baltimore showed parts of a city in flames, buildings in ruins and turmoil in the streets following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray April 19 while in police custody.

Park Avenue Pharmacy in Bolton Hill, Baltimore

Image by Taber Andrew Bain via flickr.

Less visible – perhaps with the exception of a burned and looted CVS – are the scars of limited access to health care in a city with deep pockets of poverty.

A city on the brink

First, a look at the big picture in Baltimore, Maryland’s biggest city with roughly 623,000 residents and glaring disparities in crime rates, income, education, housing – and health.

Continue reading

From #ahcj15 back to the beat: Covering disparities in health

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

At a conference, it all seems easy. So many ideas, so many enthusiastic colleagues, so many potential stories.

lisa-aliferis-ahcj15

Kris Hickman/AHCJ Lisa Aliferis, editor of KQED-San Francisco’s health blog, asks a question after hearing from physician and bestselling author Abraham Verghese, M.D., on the opening night of Health Journalism 2015.

With nearly four days packed with sessions, there’s no shortage of new contacts, resources and data. But now what?

Where should reporters start in trying to dissect their material into something usable, especially when it comes to the great wide territory of social determinants and health care? Continue reading