Author Archives: Joanne Kenen

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About Joanne Kenen

Contributing editor to Politico Magazine and former health care editor-at-large, Politico, Commonwealth Fund journalist in residence and assistant lecturer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How I did it: Reporting on COVID deaths in state veterans homes

Photo by Tim Evanson via flickr

Countless media reports have looked at the devastating effects of COVID-19 in private and public nursing homes since the start of the pandemic. However, it can be more challenging to find out how our nation’s veterans have fared: some VA nursing homes are overseen by the federal government, others are run by individual states. As Politico’s executive health care editor, Joanne Kenen writes in this “How we did it,” as more horror stories bubbled up to the surface, it was time to take a closer look. She pulled a team together for a deeper dive into how these veterans’ homes had failed those who had risked it all for our country.

In all my years covering health care, with a significant amount focused on aging — I had never heard of a state veterans homes (SVHs) — basically, nursing homes for veterans.

During the pandemic, I began seeing tweets about high death tolls in these homes (and some good local journalism on them). I got curious and reached out to three Politico colleagues, Allan Vestal, a data reporter with experience investigating nursing homes, Darius Tahir, who covers aspects of the veteran affairs (VA) and our enterprise editor Peter Canellos.

Six months later we produced a 6000-word-plus report documenting how these homes had failed aging veterans who had put their lives on the line for our country. As we wrote, “Soldiers who’d survived battles couldn’t survive the pandemic, as viruses spread through many VA homes that lacked proper controls.”

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How Biden can address health care reform ― without the Senate


Photo: medipics1066 via Flickr

In my last post, I addressed President-elect Joe Biden’s proposals for expanding the Affordable Care Act and the slim likelihood that programs like a public option could get through a closely divided Senate ― particularly if Republicans end up with a narrow one- or two-seat majority after the Georgia run-offs.

But Biden and the leaders he picks to run HHS and CMS will have broad executive power to shape health care, just as President Donald Trump and his appointees did. Continue reading

Biden’s health plan likely to travel a rough road in the Senate

Biden wearing mask at podium

Photo: Budiey via Flickr

President-elect Joe Biden has an ambitious plan to build upon the Affordable Care Act, in effect evolving “Obamacare” into “Bidencare.”

But depending on the outcome of the two Georgia Senate run-offs, Biden either will face a Republican-controlled Senate or a tied Senate in which Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote. On some issues, the Democrats might pick up a few Republicans, and on others, they could lose a few votes from their side. Continue reading

House passes first bill to expand the ACA

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr

The House recently passed a health reform bill – and it’s a definite win for the incrementalists.

The Democratic presidential primaries – which now feel like they took place in another universe, long ago and far away – were animated by a significant divide over whether to move to a single-payer “Medicare for All” health care system or to build upon the Affordable Care Act. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants to build on the ACA and favors adding a public option. Continue reading

Pandemic changes, or pauses, state approaches to health coverage

Photo: Yuri Samoilov via Flickr

Before the new coronavirus pandemic, expanding health insurance was a hot topic in the presidential campaign. States were considering a wide range of health coverage policies, including Medicaid expansion, Medicaid block grants, public options, new subsidies and coverage of immigrants.

Much of the state policymaking has been on hold or is phasing in more slowly as the nation’s health system focuses on COVID-19. States are facing enormous financial stresses due both to the pandemic and the subseqent economic crisis. Continue reading