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 joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Profile of a Kennedy led reporter to an investigation of mental health parity in N.C.

In September, Yen Duong, Ph.D., had just started work for North Carolina Health News when Hurricane Florence was churning up the east coast.

Duong’s assignment was to cover health care in Charlotte. Being three hours inland from the coast turned out to be somewhat fortuitous for Duong who had just started her second journalism job after a summer at the Raleigh News & Observer as a mass media fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Continue reading

Panel hears how drug price reform efforts could work – or not

Photo: Frankieleon via Flickr

One question Julie Appleby posed to a panel she moderated on the high cost of prescription drugs was simple enough: Do drug pricing reform efforts promise consumer relief?

The answer from three experts Appleby assembled for a panel discussion at Health Journalism 2019 this month in Baltimore was that, yes, efforts in Congress could provide some relief and those efforts have bipartisan support. But, as with any pending legislation, the details in the final bills will matter. Also, of course, any bill needs to pass both houses and then President Trump would need to sign it. Continue reading

Panel learns why there’s no easy fix for high drug prices

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJMartin Van Trieste

One of the best sessions at Health Journalism 2019 in Baltimore was the panel discussion about drug prices on May 3, “Of price spikes and shortages: New initiatives to increase patient access to generic and biosimilar drugs.” Wendy Wolfson, an independent journalist from Irvine, Calif., moderated the discussion.

Perhaps the most interesting of the four panel members was Martin Van Trieste, president and CEO, Civica Rx, a nonprofit manufacturer of generic drugs for hospitalized patients. Seven of the nation’s largest health systems have invested in Civica and their representatives will serve on its board of directors along with representatives from three philanthropies: the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Peterson Center on Healthcare, and the Gary and Mary West Foundation. Continue reading

Panelists explain how to begin mastering medical studies

Comic by xkcd.com

At some point almost all health care journalists will need to cover a medical study or two. When that happens, you’ll want to have at least a passing understanding of p values and statistics and you’ll need to know that correlation does not imply causation.

For a session on May 2, AHCJ’s medical studies topic leader Tara Haelle moderated a panel, “Begin mastering medical studies.” Haelle and two experts in the topic explained some of the finer points of covering studies: Ishani Ganguli, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Regina Nuzzo, Ph.D., a freelance journalist and professor of science, technology and mathematics at Gallaudet University. Continue reading

Do consumers benefit when health insurers own providers?

Whenever a major merger is announced in health care, the parties routinely tout the benefits for consumers, saying costs will decline and quality will improve. But do the facts bear out these claims?

During the press events announcing these deals, there’s no way to know. Researchers would need a baseline and several years of data to verify the merging partners’ claims and even then such results such as lower costs and improved quality take years to accumulate and measure. Continue reading

GAO report confirms the financially toxic nature of air ambulance fees

Photo: euthman via Flickr

Over the past several years, health care journalists have done great work highlighting the problem of surprise medical bills. There’s been so much coverage that even the U.S. House of Representatives has begun  examining the issue, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported on March 25.

Among the many surprise patient medical bills that Kliff and others have reported about come from air ambulance companies. Continue reading