Reporter discusses what fueled her Medicaid reporting

About Mary Otto

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 mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Rachel S. O'Hara/Sarasota Herald-TribuneJennifer tries to pay bills and go through some paperwork while her son, David, 2, competes for her attention.

Photo: Rachel S. O’Hara/Sarasota Herald-TribuneJennifer tries to pay bills and go through some paperwork while her son, David, 2, competes for her attention.

Reporters can find it daunting to cover Medicaid, the huge state-administered federal program charged with providing health care benefits to more than 70 million Americans.

Maggie Clark embraced the challenge. In recent months, her Two Million Kids series for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune has delved into many aspects of Florida’s troubled Medicaid system. Stories have explored the shortage of preventive and specialty care (particularly the formidable barriers faced by poor patients in accessing dental services), the struggles faced by health care providers who work with the program and the long history of efforts to reform the state’s system.

Clark’s multi-faceted project also has featured interactive graphics, unique outreach efforts and partnerships with a range of community, media and health care organizations.

A tip sheet she created for AHCJ members last month provides a good template for investigating Medicaid dental care for children in your state. Now, in this new Q and A, Clark explains how a fellowship helped to get the project off the ground and how she and her editors worked together to plan and structure the series. She also discusses lessons learned, including tips on how she sold her bosses on taking on this major project.

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