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 and other outlets. 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.
Many Americans think they pay too much for their prescription drugs, especially those who need life-saving medications for cancer and hepatitis C. Why are drug costs so high in the United States? How can reporters better explain the cost squeeze to their audiences?
Health care journalists covering addiction, overdoses, and the heroin epidemic are likely to learn that the health insurance system appears to be part of the problem. That’s what Terry DeMio found on her beat in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. Since January 2016, DeMio has been the Cincinnati Enquirer’s heroin epidemic reporter.
Rather than paying for the best medications for drug addicts in need, health insurers often require patients to start with the lowest-cost drugs. Then if the lowest-cost prescription fails, insurers then pay for the next highest-cost drug. Called fail-first or step therapy, this process repeats until the patient finds one that works. Meanwhile, the patient suffers or could die, DeMio said. Continue reading →
Photo: CDC/Debora Cartagena/CDCLegislators, facing an election year, are starting to take action in an attempt to control the drug epidemic surrounding heroin and other opioid abuse.
Stories on how heroin and other opioid abuse shattering communities have been the focus of many powerful pieces in media outlets across the country. After years of inaction, Washington, D.C. ,has begun turning its attention to the issue and moving toward some possible action.
But covering the moving parts of the Department of Health and Human Services, Congress and the White House in tackling the issue is akin to tracking a moving target, all complicated by election-year politicking. What’s a reporter – especially one outside D.C. – to do? Continue reading →
Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.
Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.
Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.
A blockbuster hepatitis C drug costs $84,000, straining state budgets. Martin Shkreli acquires the rights to a generic and raises its price 5,000 percent. Presidential candidates react to the public outcry, claiming they know what to do about the drug prices.
What does it all mean? Until recently, “there’s been an equilibrium in the public mind between a free market regimen of the market setting prices and what the public and payers are willing to pay,” said independent journalist Duncan Moore, “but there are indications this informal tradeoff has begun to swing out of control.” Continue reading →