Category Archives: Health data

Report shows how hospital rating reports can meet patients’ needs more effectively

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

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the Hospital Compare website to let consumers evaluate hospital performance based on a star-rating system. For those seeking to analyze hospitals’ overall scores, the site is useful but its one-size-fits-all approach limits how much patients can design searches to match their individual needs.

Now researchers at the Rand Corporation have built a tool called the Personalized Hospital Performance Report Card that allows users to review, customize, and compare hospitals across the United States and develop their own custom ratings based on their most important performance areas. Continue reading

Pre-existing conditions re-emerge: Find out who might be affected

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: Ted Eytan via FlickrA sign from a 2017 rally in support of the ACA in Washington, D.C.

The latest anti-Affordable Care Act lawsuit from a score of conservative state attorneys general – partly backed by the U.S. Department of Justice – brings protections for people with pre-existing conditions squarely back into the political and policy forefront. (And you should expect this lawsuit and pre-existing condition protection to come up in the Senate confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh in early September).

So how many people really do have pre-existing conditions who are vulnerable to losing coverage?  And where are they?

Continue reading

Checking conflicts of interest: If cutting corners, at least do it right

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.

Photo: Hey Paul Studios via Flickr

Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way to get them right the next time – even when you already know better and shouldn’t have made that rookie mistake in the first place.

That’s what this post is about: My haste in covering a story I already know a lot about led me to omit a crucial piece of reporting – checking for potential conflicts of interest. I hope others will learn from my experience and use the resources I provide below to avoid the same mistake. Continue reading

Don’t forget about Ebola survivors, researcher tells reporters

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: USAID via Flickr

While the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was declared over by the World Health Organization in late July, Peter Halfmann, University of Wisconsin Influenza Research Institute associate professor and Ebola researcher, says journalists should keep covering the story in terms of its long-term impact on survivors. Continue reading

Data can help reporters investigate staffing levels in area nursing homes

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in, 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.

Photo: Jason Dorn via Flickr

PBJ stands for Payroll-Based Journal, a new data set for nursing home staffing from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). It turns out it’s a goldmine for reporters trying to figure out whether skilled nursing facilities are fulfilling care and quality requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

It took time, effort, and knowledge gained from a prior class in SQL, but Kaiser Health News reporter Jordan Rau crunched the data to determine whether nursing homes might be inflating their staffing reports — a move that directly impacts the star quality ratings at Nursing Home Compare. Continue reading

Now available: Updated data on what Medicare paid to health care providers

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

AHCJ just processed almost 10 million records of Medicare payments to providers for 2016, turning it into easy-to-use spreadsheets broken down by state.

In 2016, Medicare paid more than $82 billion in payments to 91 types of providers, including physicians, therapists, ambulance services, surgical centers and more. Continue reading