How one reporter strikes balance between policy, politics

Image by Scott Cresswell via flickr.

Image by Scott Cresswell via flickr.

Given the recent discussion on the AHCJ discussion list and elsewhere about the right balance between covering the politics of the Affordable Care Act versus  the policy of the ACA, I thought it would be a great time to showcase a reporter who does both.

David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times has been all over the story of Arkansas’ “private option” Medicaid expansion. That’s definitely been a political story – Arkansas legislators have slugged it out for two sessions and it’s going to happen again next year, with the fate of Medicaid expansion always on the line.  But Ramsey (@arkdavey) recently did a long and readable piece on the faces of Arkansas health care expansion.  He matched the politics, the policy and the people. And he did more than present their faces. He captured their voices.

He wrote about people holding down multiple jobs but still not being able to pay for care, people with diabetes or Crohn’s disease or cancer or arthritis, who couldn’t get covered because of pre-existing conditions. Some were caught in a cycle of being too sick to work steadily, but too poor to get the medical help they need so they wouldn’t be too sick to work steadily.

One person he profiled was Tamara Williams, 40, a mother of three who worked at multiple jobs (including one at a state hospital), but never could afford insurance, never could get consistent care for her dangerously high blood pressure. When it spiked into stroke risk territory, she’d drink vinegar and lie on her side, with her kids wondering when to call 911. Now her blood pressure is under control for the first time in years. And she had her first mammogram – catching an invasive cancer. She’s still fighting it, but at least she can treat it.

“You kind of feel like you’re getting the VIP treatment because it was like boom, boom, boom, let’s get it (the tumor) out,” she told Ramsey. “I was like, wow, insurance really does mean something.”

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