Kentucky has gotten a lot of attention for the largely unexpected success of its health insurance exchange.
The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen has looked at another aspect of the Kentucky story: Who is getting covered and what is that going to mean?
Her first feature was published Nov. 23 (when most of us were focused on the final week of the “tech surge” to fix HealthCare.gov). She followed up in February. McCrummen looked at the faces behind the numbers – and asked questions about the numbers.
Her stories took her to Breathitt County in the foothills of Appalachia, one of the poorest and unhealthiest counties in the U.S with high rates of diabetes and heart disease. She focused on Courtney Lively, who is a human link between being covered and not being covered. Lively works at a clinic near a fast food joint, helping people get coverage, some for the first time. Among those walking through her office door were “cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks, Chinese green-card holders in town to teach Appalachian students.”
Congratulations to our AHCJ-California Health Journalism fellows, who will be attending AHCJ’s annual conference, Health Journalism 2014.
We are able to support these fellows this year thanks to funding from The California HealthCare Foundation. Continue reading
Jonathan Latham, Ph.D.
Remember the burger grown from stem cells? It might be a great idea, except a single patty grown using today’s technology, at least, cost a whopping $332,000.
In a new AHCJ tip sheet, Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project, asks whether discoveries like that are breakthroughs or “fakethroughs” – scientific advances that will never progress to new treatments or beneficial products. He also talks about his brand of investigative science journalism and why reporting on new discoveries should probably be more muted.
He has two tips for reporters and advice about what research journalists should cover.
Please welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ. All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves.
- Aparana Alluri, graduate student, Columbia University, New York
- Anjali Athavaly, student, Columbia University, New York
- Jennifer Brown, reporter, The Denver Post, Denver
- Virgil Dickson, reporter, Modern Healthcare, Washington, D.C. (@MHvdickson)
- Electa Draper, health & science writer, The Denver Post, Denver
- Kelly Ducote, news editor/reporter, La Grande, Ore. (@lgoducote)
- Rachel Gurevich, independent journalist, Las Vegas, (@RachelGurevich)
- Bennett Hall, special projects editor, Corvallis, Ore.
- Amanda Mascarelli, independent journalist, Denver, (@amandamascarell)
- Asra Nomani, independent journalist, Great Falls, Va. (@asranomani)
- Michael Schofield, student, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Linda Shapley, director of newsroom operations, The Denver Post, Denver
- Stephanie Slon, associate editor, Harvard Heart Letter, Iowa City, Iowa
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.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee are urging the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reconsider a proposal to revise the Medicare Part D prescription drug program for seniors.
In a letter sent on Friday to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 20 of the 24 members of the committee wrote to say the proposal would disrupt the care for millions of Part D beneficiaries.
According to an article by Lisa Gillespie of Inside Health Policy (free trial subscription available), only Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not sign the letter. Continue reading
FLORENCE, Italy – The Italian chapter of AHCJ actively contributed to the success of a two-day meeting organized by Science Writers in Italy in the wonderful Skeletons’ room of the Museum of Natural History in Florence and in Galileo Galilei’s charming Villa il Gioiello.
Some 35 science and health reporters and editors came from all over Italy on Feb. 15 and 16 to discuss continuing education, the role of international networking and the challenges of making a living as a freelancer. Health data, which has only started becoming available to Italian journalists in recent years, was a key focus of the workshop, and will be the focus of courses for journalists being planned in the coming months, again with the involvement of the Italian chapter of AHCJ.
Any journalist who covers nursing homes should check out this month’s special supplement in The Gerontologist, the Gerontological Society of America’s journal. It focuses on the two-decade long effort to change nursing home culture and many of the articles and studies raise important questions about whether enough progress has been shown.
For example, this study finds that nursing homes that are considered culture change adopters show a nearly 15 percent decrease in health-related survey deficiency citations relative to comparable nonadopting homes. This study looks at what is meant by nursing home culture change – the nature and scope of interventions, measurement, adherence and outcomes. Harvard health policy expert David Grabowski and colleagues take a closer look at some of the key innovators in nursing home care and what it might mean for health policy – particularly in light of the Affordable Care Act’s directive to provide more home and community-based care. Other articles look at the THRIVE study, mouth care, workplace practices, Medicaid reimbursement, and more policy implications.
Any of these studies — or several taken together — can serve as a jumping off point for local coverage. Continue reading
Buried deep in a proposal from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week was a proposal to consider new payment and delivery models designed to lower costs and improve quality.
Most of the news about the proposal issued Feb. 21 involved the CMS plan to cut payments to health plans serving Medicare Advantage members by 19 percent. But in the same proposal, CMS said it was seeking to partner with health plans to develop value-based insurance design (VBID) strategies and to improve member engagement.
In its annual call letter, CMS outlines changes for the coming year. In the call letter for 2015, Medicare Advantage Organizations, Prescription Drug Plan Sponsors, and Other Interested Parties (942 Kb PDF), CMS explained briefly its plans for these new strategies: VBID and patient engagement. These two strategies are not widely known, but some of the more innovative health plans have been adopting these two strategies in recent years as they seek to contain costs and improve the quality of care they deliver. Continue reading
A plan from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to eliminate protections for certain classes of drugs ran into stiff opposition on Wednesday when both Democrats and Republicans criticized the plan during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Committee members questioned Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator of CMS, on the CMS plan to end the protected status for three classes of drugs (antidepressants and immunosuppressants in 2015 and possibly ending protected status for antipsychotics in 2016). Blum explained that CMS wants to foster competition and lower prices and that the proposal is not designed to limit the types of drugs that CMS covers, according to an article by Jennifer Corbett Dooren in The Wall Street Journal.
But perhaps the bigger issue involved whether the Part D proposal would allow CMS to get involved in price negotiations for medications. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, bars CMS from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the price of medications for Medicare beneficiaries. This provision of the 2003 law that established Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit, is known as the non-interference clause. Continue reading
“The idea of the wellness trust is to create a pool of money that can effectively address the social determinants that are making our families sick and the vast disparities in health and access based on which ZIP code you live in,” Jim Mangia, CEO of a network of 10 community clinics in south Los Angeles, told journalist Rob Waters.
I’d never heard of a “wellness trust” until I stumbled upon Mangia’s engaging Q&A with Waters, who blogs about health and science over at Forbes. Mangia is part of a coalition of labor and community groups trying to establish a wellness trust with funding obtained via a state law that mandates that a certain percentage of profit made by hospitals be spent on community benefits. Here’s Mangia:
“If you look at where the money is in healthcare, it’s with hospitals, health plans and insurance companies. So if you’re going to reorder the priorities of a healthcare system in a particular area, you have to use the resources of the system’s wealthiest elements. The issue is: Are these community benefit dollars actually being used for community benefits? I think some are and some aren’t. We’ve done research and know that cities and counties have some power to decide how those community benefits are spent. It’s through that process we think we can create this trust.”