New funding will allow HealthNewsReview.org to resume, expand

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.

Gary Schwitzer

Gary Schwitzer

AHCJ member Gary Schwitzer has announced that the website he publishes, HealthNewsReview.org, has received a two-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The site, known for its systematic reviews and ratings of news stories about health care, had been funded since 2005 by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation but lost its funding July 1, 2013. Continue reading

Covering an ACA grant for ‘super-users’ in Lehigh Valley, Pa.

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: Chris Wong via Flickr

Photo: Chris Wong via Flickr

Most of us have heard about “super-users” – patients who are constantly in and out of the hospital, running up large bills. Most have multiple chronic diseases, are poor, and often have mental illness or substance abuse problems. Most live alone, and some are homeless.

Four communities – Lehigh Valley, Pa.; Kansas City, Mo.; San Diego and Aurora, Colo. – have received grants under the Affordable Care Act to tackle the super-user problem. (Other non-ACA-funded initiatives are also underway). Investigative reporter Tim Darragh, formerly of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., spent a year tracking the grant in the Lehigh Valley. The super-user innovation grants, which were issued in 2012, provide $14.3 million and (at least for Lehigh) expire in mid-2015.

Darragh, now a reporter at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, looked at a broad range of issues in the project. He also was able to weave narrative into the policy reporting. The Morning Call recently published five pieces:

Continue reading

D.C. journalists gather for annual holiday celebration

Phil Galewitz

About Phil Galewitz

Phil Galewitz, a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News, helps lead AHCJ's Washington, D.C., chapter.

In  one of the best attended D.C. chapter events, nearly 50 health journalists, along with several industry and government officials, gathered at The Watergate in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4 to toast the holiday season.

The National Journal and its health reporters,  Sophie Novack and Sam Baker, hosted the event at their offices overlooking The Kennedy Center. Journalists from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Kaiser Health News, The Huffington Post and U.S. News & World Reports were among those in attendance.

Senior communications officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The White House , PhRma and the National Pharmaceutical Council gathered at the chapter event which featured beer from Belgium and the greater Washington, D.C., area. There was no formal program. The event allowed journalists to network with one another and industry and government officials.

In sad, compelling stories, journalists are documenting a mental health care system in crisis

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.

Photo: Jan Bommes via Flickr

Photo: Jan Bommes via Flickr

Imagine the outcry if patients with cancer or any other chronic condition lacked standard, appropriate care. Such ill treatment would not be tolerated.

Yet the U.S. health care system routinely fails to provide basic care to Americans with mental illness, says Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island and co-founder of One Mind, an organization seeking new treatments for neurologic and psychiatric diseases of the brain.

For a series of articles in USA Today, Liz Szabo quoted Kennedy on mental health care in America: “The failure to provide treatment and supportive services to people with mental illness – both in the community and in hospitals – has overburdened emergency rooms, crowded state and local jails and left untreated patients to fend for themselves on city streets.”

The burden of inadequate mental health care falls on individuals and families, but also on emergency rooms, hospitals, jails and other institutions, making this topic well worth the rich and deep coverage Szabo and other journalists have committed to it. Such coverage is important, as reporters have found in Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, and it can be rewarding because it forces journalists to confront and explain some most challenging health care issues in our society. Continue reading

Putting a human face on Maryland’s unique all-payer 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.

Sarah Gantz has been fascinated with Maryland’s Medicare waiver since the Baltimore Business Journal hired her to write about health care more than two and a half years ago. She describes the policy as “the lifeblood of Maryland’s $15 billion hospital industry.”

Photo: hea_medev via Flickr

Photo: hea_medev via Flickr

Maryland is the only state with an “all-payer” hospital system – a system in which every health plan and every payer pays about the same rate to a given hospital for a given procedure or treatment. That includes Medicare, under a waiver from the federal government.  A commission sets the costs and there’s a lot less cost-shifting in the system if everyone is playing by the same rules.

Despite its importance, Gantz says that most people write it off as a wonky hospital rule that doesn’t affect them. With help from the AHCJ Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance, Gantz set out to explain why the policy is worth taking the time to understand. In this piece for AHCJ, she tells our readers what she learned and how she turned wonky policy into stories about real people.

Welcome AHCJ’s newest members

Len Bruzzese

About Len Bruzzese

Len Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves on the executive committee of the Council of National Journalism Organizations.

Please welcome these new professional members to AHCJ. All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves.

  • Idelle Davidson, independent journalist, Los Angeles (@IdelleDavidson)
  • Paul Demko, bureau chief, Modern Healthcare, Washington, D.C. (@Mhpdemko)
  • Patti DiVincenzo, producer, WSB-Atlanta (@pattiwsb)
  • Amanda Keim-Morrison, health news producer, BringMeTheNews, Minneapolis (@amandakeim)
  • Elizabeth Millard, reporter/producer, BringMeTheNews, Bruno, Minn.
  • Kate Moos, director, news content development, American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio, St. Paul, Minn.

If you haven’t joined yet, see what member benefits you’re missing out on: Access to more than 50 journals and databases, tip sheets and articles from your colleagues on how they’ve reported stories, conferences, workshops, online training, reporting guides and more. Join AHCJ today to get a wealth of support and tools to help you.

Seniors face struggle to get preventive dental care

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.

A recent special “Your Money” section in The New York Times looked at American spending habits from a variety of angles. One piece examined geographic patterns in the consumption of luxury goods. Another explored the emotional aspects of bargain hunting. Then there was an article by Ann Carrns that delved into the difficult spending choices retirees may face in obtaining dental care.

Image by  Partha S. Sahana via flickr.

Image by Partha S. Sahana via flickr.

The piece opened with an anecdote about 73-year-old Terry O’Brien, a retired administrative assistant weighing the cost of a $2,000 crown for one of her teeth.

“I always took care of my teeth,” O’Brien told the Times. But since she lacks dental coverage, she opted for a less expensive filling. The call was a tough one that left O’Brien pondering how she will go on paying for her dental care. “I’ll make 100, I bet,” she said.  “But I wonder how long my teeth will last.” Continue reading

What ACA enrollment numbers tell us – and what they don’t

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.

insuranceBy now you have heard of “Dentalgate.” The administration, twice, released ACA enrollment numbers this fall that included nearly 400,000 dental plans, alongside the regular health insurance plans. That made it sound like more than 7 million people were covered in the state and federal exchanges.

That’s wrong. Depending on which date you used, there were either about 6.9 million (as of mid-August) or 6.7 million (October).

You know the politics too: The GOP said it was “deception;” the Department of Health and Human Services said, “Oops.” There will be a hearing on the Hill on Dec. 9 when CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner will testify before the House Oversight committee.

But what do we know about where the numbers come from, or what they say about attrition from the 8 million who signed up for coverage by the middle of April? Continue reading

Focus is on closing the gap, ending stigma for World AIDS Day 2014

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Today is the 26th Annual World AIDS Day. This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is “Close The Gap,” with United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon setting a bold goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

According the World Health Organization, about 35 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with approximately 70 percent of new infections worldwide occurring there. In the U.S., approximately 1.2 million people live with HIV − and an estimated one out of seven of those are not aware they are infected. Continue reading

Taylor’s top 10 tips for covering scientific meetings

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, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Mark Taylor

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonMark Taylor

How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?

Mark Taylor has covered more than a few scientific conferences in his two decades as a health care journalist. While he says that doesn’t qualify him as an expert, he does admit that “over the years I’ve painfully acquired a few tips for how to successfully cover such massive events.”

Most recently, he attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (as a GSA Journalism in Aging Fellow), which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions.

Following that meeting, Taylor shared his top 10 tips for efficiently covering scientific conferences. Find out what they are and then come back here to  add your tips in the comments.