Author Archives: Joseph Burns

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

Amazon Berkshire’s health care initiative hires expert in contracting for quality

Dana Gelb Safran

Last spring, Atul Gawande, M.D., became chief executive officer of an unnamed initiative that will cover the health costs of 1.2 million employees and family members of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan. Shortly after being named CEO, Gawande said the initiative would aim to eliminate three kinds of waste in the health care system: administrative costs, high prices, and inappropriate use of health care services, as Zachary Tracer reported for Bloomberg News.

Last week, we got a clue about how Gawande might approach these three challenges when the initiative hired Dana Gelb Safran, Sc.D., from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Continue reading

BCBS of Massachusetts will pay to keep patients out of the hospital

Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced this week that it is taking the radical step of paying to keep patients out of the hospital.

In a partnership with South Shore Health System in Weymouth, Mass., BCBSM will change the financial reward system so that it will tie payments to health system to its success in collaborating with physicians to improve quality, patient outcomes and costs for the patients they physicians and health system. Under BCBSM’s Alternative Quality Contract (AQC), the health insurer will reward the health system and physicians for their success in doing so, the two parties said in an Oct. 30 news release. Continue reading

Health care ballot measures challenge reporters to separate fact from fiction

Photo: Newslighter via Flickr 

In California, an initiative known as Proposition 8 asks voters to limit the revenue that kidney dialysis clinics can earn. The proposition pits health care unions against the large companies that run dialysis centers.

In Massachusetts, a ballot question asks voters to consider a proposal to limit how many patients a hospital can assign to each registered nurse at hospitals and other health care facilities. Continue reading

CVS-Aetna merger approval raises questions about competition and drug costs

Photo: afagen via Flickr

The merger of CVS Health, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy retailers, with third-largest health insurer Aetna has the potential to transform the health care system and raises concerns about the effect the merger could have on drug prices and competition. This would be the first time that a large pharmacy retailer gains control of one of the nation’s largest health insurers. CVS Health not only has 9,800 retail outlets in nearly every state (except Wyoming), but also 94 million members in pharmacy benefit manager CVS/Caremark. Continue reading

Digging into stakeholders’ comments for insight into AHPs

Photo: Viewminder via Flickr

When Noam N. Levey was preparing to write about association health plans for The Los Angeles Times, he mined one of the best sources available: the comments on the federal Department of Labor’s site.

The comments on proposed DOL rules on the shed light on how health insurers and other organizations viewed how AHPs would work. When the department issued the final rules in June, Levey was prepared to write a well-sourced article about the advantages and disadvantages of AHPs. Continue reading

AHCJ webcast to feature authors of award-winning ‘Seven Days of Heroin’ project

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

In April, the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting for an extraordinary special project, “Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.” As the Pulitzer judges said, the newspaper’s staff won, “For a riveting and insightful narrative and video documenting seven days of greater Cincinnati’s heroin epidemic, revealing how the deadly addiction has ravaged families and communities.” The project’s video element earned an Edward R. Murrow award for excellence in video and a regional Emmy award. Continue reading