Author Archives: Katie McCrimmon

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About Katie McCrimmon

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a senior writer for Health News Colorado. She attended Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-Colorado Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the Colorado Health Foundation.

Panelists urge journalists to report on how vaccines save lives #ahcj15

Pia Christensen/AHCJRebecca Plevin, a health reporter at KPCC Southern California Public Radio, includes in her stories the fact that there’s no scientific evidence backing up claims that vaccines are harmful.

As a measles outbreak late last year spread from Disneyland to seven U.S. states affecting at least 147 people, one news organization on the front lines of the story made a deliberate decision about how to handle stories related to vaccines.

“Like climate change, there aren’t two sides to this story,” said Rebecca Plevin, a health reporter for KPCC Southern California Public Radio, referring to the fact that in both cases there’s no dispute over the science. There are not two sets of facts when it comes to vaccines, she said.

Plevin’s remarks came during a panel about vaccines at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif.

When she’s doing stories about vaccine-preventable diseases or parents’ qualms about giving vaccines, Plevin now talks about the proven benefits of vaccines. If parents talk about diverting from recommended vaccine schedules or say they have fears that vaccines harm children, Plevin and her co-workers include a statement that there’s no scientific evidence backing up claims that vaccines are harmful. Continue reading

Pull sexy quotes, say thank you and share, share, share #ahcj14

Photo by Katie McCrimmonLiz Szabo meets with journalists at Health Journalism 2014.

Overheard at “The Art of the Tweet:” Pull out a sexy quote to write a good tweet like: “#Ambien replaces #roofies as new date rape drug.”

“I’d read that,” said Liz Szabo, medical writer for USA Today (@LizSzabo) and an early adopter who shared her favorite tips for using Twitter during a Thursday afternoon session at Health Journalism 2014 in Denver (#ahcj14). Continue reading

Seven ideas to cover health exchanges before the rollout

  1. Look at the technology. It’s incredibly complex and it may not work come “go-live” on Oct. 1. Health exchanges have to communicate with the federal data hub. That system has been spotty. It’s supposed to give income data and confirm citizenship. Exchange systems also must communicate with Medicaid systems, which are different in every state. In Colorado, the Medicaid computer system is an old one that has never worked well. The concept of getting real-time insurance quotes and instant estimates of tax subsidies may be fiction.

  2. Contingency plans: If your state is building an exchange, ask about their contingency plans. If states have to deploy these, they could be interesting and expensive.

  3. How much is the exchange costing? States that are doing their own exchanges have gotten big federal grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s always worth taking a look at how much your state is spending to enable private health insurance companies to sell to more people.

  4. Who will be left out? In Colorado, we have a big population of uninsured people and a large number of Latino immigrants. Those who are undocumented won’t be eligible to shop on the exchange. What will happen to them? What about others who find coverage too expensive or choose to opt out?

  5. Young people. Insurance companies and exchanges will be marketing to young, healthy people. Look for insurance drives on college campuses, etc. These young people are cheap to cover and having them in the risk pool helps cover the really sick people. Between coverage on exchanges and coverage through their parents’ health plans, young people are hot.

  6. Are exchanges succeeding? The whole purpose of exchanges is to give more people access to affordable health insurance. Every exchange (state or federal) will be tracking numbers on a daily basis. Compare how many people your state (or the feds) promised to cover and how many are actually signing up. Also take note of what they are buying. Are the cheapest plans the hot sellers? Are most people opting for catastrophic coverage or the most expensive “platinum” plans?

  7. What are exchanges anyway?  Most people don’t have a clue what they are. In our state, the exchange is called Connect for Health Colorado. People don’t seem to make any connection between this entity and health reform. The same may be true where you live.

Feel free to check out coverage on the Solutions website. You’ll hear that Colorado is leading the pack on exchanges, but our exchange managers and Medicaid folks have been sparring behind the scenes. We learned that they needed a mediator and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided one. (Mediator to triage health exchange problems)

The latest news this week is that we’re seven weeks out and the Medicaid portal isn’t working properly and is spitting out errors. Tech errors prompt red light warning for exchange)

Two sources who have really helped me over the past several months are consultants who are tracking exchanges:

Delving into the many mysteries of autism #ahcj13

Don’t say the word “cure.”

A much-discussed study found that some children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders can outgrow them. That news has spurred hope among parents desperate for cures and, simultaneously, fears among some on the spectrum who embrace their “quirkiness” and don’t want a fix, thank you very much.

A panel of experts said Friday at Health Journalism 2013 that the causes of autism spectrum disorders remain mysterious and that questions remain about how to minimize the deficits in speech, social behavior and cognition seen in those on the spectrum.

The three experts all agreed that new higher estimates from the CDC that one in 88 children may have autism could be related to increased diagnosis and earlier detection, not just to an increase in cases. They said babies as young as six months can exhibit signs that they might be on the spectrum and that clinicians are diagnosing children who have just turned a year old. Continue reading