Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tip about troubles in Texas’ Medicaid dental system was part of a routine conversation. But it was enough to make reporter Byron Harris start digging.
He and his colleagues at WFAA-Dallas spent nine months scrutinizing data, wearing out shoe leather, following up on leads and trying to get people to talk.
In 2011, the “Crooked Teeth” stories raised profoundly troubling questions about oversight of the Medicaid dental program in Texas; the millions upon millions spent on orthodontic services for beneficiaries; the suspect billing practices of many providers. The 11-part investigative series uncovered one of the largest Medicaid scandals in the history of Texas. Government audits, reform efforts and lawsuits followed in its wake.
Harris continues reporting on the issue. He recently filed another story after federal officials concluded that the state owes $133 million for unnecessary dental work. “Texas paid $191,410,707 for unallowable orthodontic services from 2008 through 2010, according to a federal investigation,” Harris told viewers on June 3. “And officials say the federal government now wants a large portion of that money back.”
In this “How I Did It” article, Harris takes us back to the very beginning of “Crooked Teeth.” He explains how the project began, and how it unfolded. He also shares some wisdom on how to use data to follow up on a tip.
“In response to questions about publicizing the exchange, Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, wrote in an email that the state was ‘not interested in implementing Obamacare, including the exchange.’”
The dramatic filibuster of Texas Senate Bill 5 has refocused the nation’s attention on abortion.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her staunchly planted pink sneakers – along with help from a raucous crowd of spectators – delayed a vote on SB5 until three minutes past midnight on Wednesday, blocking its passage. It may be a short-lived victory for the Democrats, however.
Gov. Rick Perry quickly called another special session, starting today, to take up the bill again.
The bill and supporting documents – including the list of witnesses that testified for and against the legislation (AKA potential sources) – can be found here.
According to a report by the nonprofit Texas Tribune, there are two flashpoints in the proposed law.
The first is that it would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation. That provision is similar to a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June. The rationale for the legislation, which has been disputed by some doctors, is that fetuses older than 20 weeks can feel pain.
The second is this:
On and after September 1, 2014, the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under Section 243.010 for ambulatory surgical centers.
Those minimum standards, which are set by the Texas Department of State Health Services, can be found here. Continue reading →
Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.
The Houston Chronicle‘s Terri Langford reports that for-profit outpatient psychiatric clinics in the state, most located around Houston, are collecting millions in Medicare dollars yet “require no license to operate in Texas.”
She writes that, despite access to significant federal funds, the clinics are subject to little oversight from any level of government, especially when it comes to patient care.
…other than a one time inspection conducted by Medicare when clinics start operating – these programs have no detailed standards or “conditions of participation,” that must be met before filing claims and collecting taxpayer money.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flagged the problem earlier this year, saying “no regulatory basis exists to ensure basic levels of quality and safety” for CMHC care.
The loopholes, including the lack of an established means to kick poorly performing centers out of the medicare system, apply nationwide, but their exploitation remains localized.
Records show that in 2009, Medicare paid $287 million on these programs nationwide, 74 percent of them located in the three states that have no state licensing requirements: Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
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.
Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, the subject of recent reports that patients were at risk, has sued the Texas attorney general in an attempt to prevent the release of records requested by The Dallas Morning News.
Parkland filed the latest lawsuit — its fifth against the AG related to the newspaper — on Monday. This time the goal is to block release of Parkland police department records dealing with the psychiatric emergency room. The News is not seeking medical records.