Tag Archives: Health care reform

Join us for a webcast next week on how rural Americans will use the insurance marketplaces

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.

Since Oct. 1, most of the coverage of the health insurance marketplaces has properly focused on how well the exchanges are working (or not).

One issue that has not been explored much is how the marketplaces will affect rural Americans. AHCJ will sponsor a webcast on this topic titled, “How will rural Americans tap into the insurance marketplaces?” The webcast will be on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panelists will be Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky; Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association; and Jim Doyle, who covers the business of health care for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act is help make health insurance coverage affordable and accessible for the approximately 60 million Americans who live in rural areas. The federal Department of Health and Human Services has said the health insurance marketplaces will help to lower costs by increasing competition, especially in the 29 mostly rural states where a single insurer currently dominates more than half of the health insurance market, HHS said in a fact sheet. Continue reading

Reference tool for covering insurance exchanges

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 other day we gave you a Twitter list of many of the state-based health insurance reforms (courtesy of Huffington Post’s Jeff Young), and here (hat tip for Phil Galewitz) we’ve got a complete list of the exchange websites and call center numbers.

It was compiled by State Reform (a project of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Academy of State Health Policy).  It also has a handy reference of which are state, federal or partnership exchanges.

Health reform D-Day? Or not for a few more months?

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.

At the AHCJ event we had in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, I talked about why there’s nothing magical about Oct. 1 – and why it’s also such a pivotal day.

From a strictly policy viewpoint, today is just the start of a six-month open enrollment period that ends March 31. We won’t really know for some time how many people the exchanges are enrolling or what the emerging risk pool looks like (men versus women, older versus younger, sicker versus healthier). We will probably hear about people having problems getting on the exchange websites or call centers – we won’t necessarily hear as much about people who don’t encounter problems. We’ll find out about glitches – computer problems, call center snags. Some may be serious – but if they are fixed relatively quickly, they aren’t fatal. The Medicare drug benefit had all sorts of snags when it opened, but within a few weeks it was working quite well.

But that’s the staid policy viewpoint and all of us know that – as the government shuts down, as the “Obamacare wars” are well into year 4 – this is not just a policy story. Even the wonkiest, most policy-minded reporters among us know this is a political story, a political dynamic, too. So we aren’t going to be deluged with press releases that say “Health insurance exchanges open – let’s give it six months to make a judgment.” We’re going to be hit with a tidal wave of advocates and enemies trying to seize the message and declare victory or defeat. It will be a battle of the “I told you sos.”

And since the enrollment period – with all its problems and challenges – will go on for three months until the actual health coverage begins on Jan. 1, that’s three more months to focus on problems without being able to point to benefits. That lag will be politically challenging for supporters of the law.

It won’t just be politicians and advocates making snap judgments – some of us may also face pressure from editors to come up with a grand and definitive and immediate answer – it’s working, or it flopped. By, like, noon.

Try hard to keep your eye not just on what happens in the coming hours – but the far more important question of what’s going to happen in the coming weeks, months and years.

History gives perspective to changes in health care system

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.

While most of us are focused on the opening of the insurance marketplaces on Tuesday, Catherine Hollander, in the National Journal, takes a broader look at the history of changes in our health care system and how the Affordable Care Act might change things over time.

She asserts that the ACA is not the first or even biggest transformation of our health care system:

“Two overhauls were more radical than Obamacare will be next year: the dramatic rise of employer-sponsored insurance during the World War II era, and the adoption of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

A look forward at what health reform could mean for the country explains the coverage gaps left by the decisions to expand or not expand Medicaid in the states. The system will experience insurance reforms, more patients for doctors to see, innovations designed to save money and improve care and possibly a change in perception of people being rated on the state of their health.

Hollander, putting things into perspective, points out there is still a lot we don’t know about how Obamacare is going to play out and whether it can shift the entire health care system.

(Hat tip to Phil Galewitz)

Employer survey shows continued move toward less comprehensive health insurance coverage

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 by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.com.

Almost every day there is news about the strategies employers are using as they prepare for the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday was a good example. The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) reported that health care costs for its members – large employers – would rise by 7 percent next year, as Helen Adamopoulos wrote at Becker’s Hospital Review. That means 2014 will be the third straight year of 7 percent increases, said NBGH president and chief executive officer Helen Darling.

Just as the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust survey showed last week, the NBGH results demonstrate that employers are shifting more responsibility and costs to workers and families.

Jerry Geisel at Business Insurance via Modern Healthcare pointed out that 22 percent of employers responding to the NBGH survey said they will offer only a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) next year. “More large employers are reducing the type of health care plans they offer as they try to keep better control of their costs, according to a survey released Wednesday,” he wrote.

In an article for Kaiser Health News, Jay Hancock led with the fact that NBGH’s large employer members are considering moving retirees and part-time workers into health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

Health reform core topic pages feature new data, links, concepts

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 latest additions to AHCJ’s core curriculum pages on health reform include information about bundled payments, acute and chronic conditions, SHOP exchanges and some resources on overtreatment and screening guidelines.

The health reform data page now includes links to the latest readmission rates released by the Agency for Health Care  Research and Quality. Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News has written for AHCJ members about how to use readmission data in your reporting, including why it has become so important:

The Affordable Care Act honed in on hospital readmissions because many health policy experts believe they’re symptomatic of the broad dysfunction of the health care system where providers don’t work with each other as patients pass from one setting, like a hospital, to another, like a primary doctor’s oversight or a nursing home.

New readmissions penalties that begin in October are intended to prod hospitals to start making sure patients get the care they need after they walk out the door.

Resources can help reporters cover ACA implementation

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.

Today I have a quick post to share a few health journalism resources, other than AHCJ’s own health reform core topic area, that may help you down the final leg of implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

Reporting on Health is a program of the USC Annenberg Center and the California Endowment. It touches on a range of health issues – including materials and examples of good work for those of you on the health reform policy beat or tracking developments in your state. It’s a bit California-centric, for obvious reasons, but still a lot of helpful material and sources.

The Columbia Journalism Review‘s Second Opinion project is spearheaded by former AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman. I’ve particularly liked the pieces on state exchanges.

Web Md has regular updates on health law implemention,  including Health Reform 101 from AHCJ member Lisa Zamosky.

And The Wall Street Journal  has a new ACA rollout page, including a primer on some of the law’s key features.

99 things on the health care reform to-do list, the otter edition

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.

For some Friday fun … Sarah Kliff did a blog post for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog on  “99 things” that have to happen in the 99 days between her post and Oct 1. OK, she cheated a little:

2. Washington state must launch a health insurance exchange

3. Oregon must launch a health insurance exchange

4. California must launch a health insurance exchange

5. Idaho must launch a health insurance exchange

6. Hawaii must launch a health insurance exchange

7. Colorado must launch a health insurance exchange

Image by Peter Kaminski via flickr.

But she’s still got some useful information on what’s on the states’ and the feds’ to-do list which helps you understand the technical complexity of this undertaking.

And don’t forget to check out number 99.  Which, quite frankly, has nothing to do with health care but we can all learn about baby otters.

Give context, not equal time, to anecdotes in coverage of health reform

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.

Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, in a recent Politico op-ed, shared some thoughts on challenges in covering of the roll out of the Affordable Care Act.

Three of his main points – understanding the health law is not just a Washington story, knowing what to cover and finding solid resources to get at the facts instead of contrived “balance” – are topics we try to address on Covering Health and on the AHCJ health reform core topic site. Balance is fine – fair and essential – in complex stories where there are many points of view, different ideologies, and legitimate questions about how the health law will unfold over time.

It’s not “balance” if there is clear, solid data on a specific topic, and another side gets equal time just because they don’t like it (or because your editor insists that it get equal time).  Knowing what’s in the law, what it does and what it doesn’t do, helps us report with authority and find that balance.

The aspect I want to address here, related to the “balance” question, is what Altman calls “judgment by anecdote.” Here’s what he’s worried about: Continue reading

Facing growing health care costs, Mass. tries containment #ahcj13

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

About Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey is a business reporter at the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-Healthier Beat Fellowship, which is supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Massachusetts is famously ahead of other states when it comes to health insurance coverage. Ninety-eight percent of Bay State residents have insurance.

But the state is also way ahead in another area: health care costs. The cost of care is the highest per capita in the country and, consequently, the world, according to Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Insurers, providers and government regulators have been working, with some success, to curb the rate of health care costs in Massachusetts. Continue reading