Category Archives: Core Topics

Report shows wide variation in what insurers pay providers versus what Medicare would have paid

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.

Researchers from the Health Care Cost Institute reviewed 210 million claims from individuals with health insurance through their employers in 2017 and compared what insurers paid physicians and other providers for those services against what Medicare would have paid for the same services in 271 metropolitan areas.

Graphic: Health Care Cost InstituteResearchers from the Health Care Cost Institute reviewed 210 million claims from individuals with health insurance through their employers in 2017 and compared what insurers paid physicians and other providers for those services against what Medicare would have paid for the same services in 271 metropolitan areas. (Click to enlarge graphic.)

During the coronavirus pandemic, any number of good news stories seem to get little or no coverage because most health care journalists are busy covering COVID-19.

One such case in point was a report earlier this month from the Health Care Cost Institute. In Comparing Commercial and Medicare Professional Service Prices, HCCI researchers compared what health insurers paid to physicians and other providers with what Medicare pays for those services.

This report should not be overlooked for at least three reasons. Continue reading

Understanding the COVID-19 plasma treatment debate

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Photo: Magdalena Wiklund via Flickr

By forcing the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 23 to approve blood plasma as a COVID-19 treatment under an emergency use authorization (EUA), President Trump again inserted politics into scientific research ― a situation that may create even more uncertainty about plasma as a potential treatment.

Plasma ― the part of blood that contains antibodies and proteins ― is still under investigation for this use, and those leading randomized clinical trials now far they may have difficulty recruiting new patients due to the controversy.

Continue reading

Staffing in nursing homes matters when combating COVID-19

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

senior wearing a mask

Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

Why are some nursing homes doing so much better at containing the coronavirus among residents and staff than others? Testing, adequate protective gear and the ability to isolate infected residents are all important factors. Another key contributor is sufficient staffing, according to a recent research letter in JAMA.

Nursing homes that rated better on staffing had fewer COVID-19 cases than those facilities with poorer staffing ratings. Approximately 27% of deaths due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have occurred among residents of nursing homes, researchers noted in the August 10 letter. (The New York Times estimated closer to 40% if workers are included.) It seems like a no-brainer that more staff might result in fewer cases. Continue reading

Report examines senior living facilities in the wake of COVID-19

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

socially distanced residents in front of their retirement home

Photo: Gilbert Mercier via Flickr

The devastating toll of the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes has had a domino effect on the entire senior living industry, according to a new report. Misconceptions about housing for older adults, along with negative perceptions about assisted living, independent living and active adult communities, have prompted many owners and operators to take a hard look at what this industry must do to reassure residents and families about safety and wellness. Continue reading

CDC highlights case study on how schools could reopen safely

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

school busTo showcase how schools could reopen safely this year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, M.D., highlighted an effort in Rhode Island to reopen hundreds of child care programs, while keeping community spread of COVID-19 in check.

During a rare media briefing on Aug. 21, Redfield talked to reporters about how evidence continues to show that mask wearing, daily symptom screening, enhanced sanitation and keeping students in small controlled groups is a strategy that can limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Continue reading

Keep an eye out for lead-time bias with COVID-19 deaths

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

patient in hospital bed

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Lead time bias is a well-recognized challenge especially when it comes to studies and statistics looking at cancer screenings. As the entry on the AHCJ website explains, lead time bias is a type of bias that can “artificially inflate the survival time of someone with a disease.”

How? When providers get better at looking for — and finding — a disease, it appears to lengthen the time someone survives after diagnosis. In reality, the patient is not necessarily living longer than they would have if the disease were discovered later. It just seems like they’re living longer because the disease is identified sooner, and the “clock” on survival time starts earlier. Continue reading