Category Archives: Patient safety

One-year postpartum Medicaid coverage: Are states ready to offer  it soon?

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

Photo by Toshimasa Ishibashi via Flickr.

April 1 marks the kickoff date for a federal option that makes it easier for states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year after childbirth from the current 60-day standard.

Journalists can now find out how well their states have prepared to take advantage of this Medicaid-expansion pathway, which Congress created as part of last year’s American Rescue Plan legislation. Here are several good websites to track the progress states have made in winning needed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) permission for the one-year postpartum coverage.

  • The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) has a website dedicated to tracking efforts to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage. It offers detailed summaries of the status of efforts within state legislatures to make the needed legal changes for the coverage expansion.
  • Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF): It’s always a good idea to check the website of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) when covering a Medicaid issue. KFF is keeping tabs on state efforts as well through its Medicaid Postpartum Coverage Extension Tracker.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) : ACOG is advocating for wide use of the new pathway, calling “critical” as many states as possible implement the required state plan amendment for the April 1 start date, ACOG said on a webpage dedicated to building support for a permanent expansion.

There’s been significant interest in recent years in addressing the reasons why U.S. maternal mortality rates have risen, running counter to global trends of falling rates — at least in the years before the pandemic.

“No mother should have to fight for her coverage or care during pregnancy or while caring for a newborn,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a Dec. 7 statement, noting that unnecessary postpartum illnesses and deaths “disproportionately harm people of color.”

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U.S. prepares to launch 3-digit mental health crisis hotline with a text option

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

A tweet from Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.

Federal officials and telecommunications companies have been working to meet a July 2022 deadline for a switch to a new three-digit hotline number for people experiencing mental health crises.

The new 988 dialing code will operate through the infrastructure of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800- 273-TALK. 

In covering the creation of the 988 code, journalists should consider the advice that a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave in a 2020 statement. Michael O’Rielly warned against “giving a false promise to the public that 988 is already operational.”

Instead, it’s important to note how much effort establishing the 988 code will require. Deploying 988 “isn’t a matter of simply pulling a proverbial switch,” O’Rielly said. Instead, it will require telecommunications companies to replace, update, or otherwise alter their systems, as well as changes in dialing, he said.

“Even in the best of circumstances, such transitions can be challenging and lengthy, requiring consumer education, end user equipment upgrades by enterprise and government entities, and coordination with state public utility commissions, among other challenges,” O’Rielly said. “Acknowledging the work ahead doesn’t diminish the extensive work that’s been done to arrive at this point; it just reflects the reality of the transition.”  

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Patient-safety leader challenges hospitals nationwide to establish 10 crucial teams

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

Photo courtesy of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

A leader in the patient-safety movement recently urged hospital officials to use their organizations to take on 10 specific challenges including increasing voter registrations and addressing climate change.

Journalists may find several story ideas from a provocative keynote address at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) forum given by a longtime leader in efforts to make people safer while getting medical care. In his Dec. 8 speech, Donald Berwick, M.D., M.P.P., president emeritus and senior fellow at IHI, sought to draw attention to the following areas:

  1. Health coverage
  2. Food security
  3. Housing security
  4. Immigrant needs
  5. Corrections and prison health
  6. Climate and decarbonization 
  7. Voting rights
  8. Education supports
  9. Early childhood supports 
  10. Elderly and loneliness 

It seems unlikely that many if any hospital leaders will be quick to try all the challenges Berwick posed. But it could prove interesting for journalists to check with local hospitals about any work that may already be underway or planned in these areas. Another approach would be to ask people in local nonprofit organizations about how they view Berwick’s speech and what parts of it might benefit the community. (The 49-minute keynote address is available on YouTube. It’s engaging and well worth a listen.) 

In his speech, Berwick also highlighted groups already making progress in each of these areas. These organizations might serve as good sources for stories looking at how hospitals can serve to trigger larger changes in their communities.

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Hospital ratings: How journalists can help consumers have important conversations

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

Photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr.

Many of our readers, listeners and viewers are not aware of the different ratings available to help consumers evaluate hospitals. While there are challenges with using these ratings, they may be helpful for patients, especially those preparing for an elective procedure.

Experienced journalists have seen numerous stories examining the differing methodologies and motives of the groups that produce hospital ratings. Many journalists have written on this topic already. It’s important to make sure your readers understand how much marketing may be involved with reports they see about hospitals getting top marks.

The existence of hospital ratings is likely old news for many of us. But many of the people we serve may not know about them or not know what to do with the data they provide.

“Stories that are written about websites like Leapfrog Group can be a beneficial source of information,” Christine Smith of Rockville, Maryland said in an email to AHCJ.

Smith told me she thought Medstar Georgetown University Hospital was a top-rated center due in part to the statements on its website and its affiliation with a prestigious academic institution. During our conversation, I told her I would look at the ratings CMS had posted for Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. On Medicare.gov’s comparison page, the hospital earned two of five possible stars, as seen in the screenshot below.

But there are hospitals in neighboring Maryland and Virginia that earned four-star and five-star ratings. (If you are curious which hospitals got these more impressive marks, you can search here.) The same holds true in the latest rankings from The Leapfrog Group.

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Tracking the Senate confirmation process for next FDA chief

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Senate’s vetting of a proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner may provide an opportunity for reporters to dig into some of the most pressing concerns in U.S. health policy, including the opioid epidemic and the standards used to clear new medical treatments for the market.

President Joe Biden on Nov. 12 announced his plan to nominate Robert Califf as FDA commissioner. Califf served in this same post in the final months of the Obama administration, from February 2016 to January 2017 (Learn everything you need to know about Califf in this blog post.) The next step will be a hearing on the nomination before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The committee expects to receive a formal nomination for Califf this week and will schedule a hearing “as soon as possible,” a HELP aide told AHCJ.

Califf likely will face questions during his next round of Senate vetting on some of the same topics he faced on the first round, including FDA’s decisions on food safety and the pace at which it approves generic drugs. Senators will likely ask him to weigh in on controversies that have emerged since, particularly the FDA’s approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm drug for Alzheimer’s disease. (The AHCJ has covered this issue in June and July blogs.)

If confirmed, Califf would also lead the FDA during the next big push in Congress to change how the agency handles drug approvals in general.

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