Mental health advocates pressing for swifter White House action

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

PHOTO: claire valej via Flickr

PHOTO: claire valej via Flickr

Here are just a few of the mental health initiatives that the Biden Administration appears poised to pursue, according to policy watchers and influencers.

  • Increased federal enforcement of an Affordable Care Act mandate that insurance companies put mental health care on par with all other health care.
  • Heightened oversight of short-term insurance policies that President Trump supported, but critics derided as “junk insurance” because they did not cover mental illness or behavioral, substance abuse and similar disorders.
  • More federal support to help municipalities join a nationwide emergency 988 call line — signed into law in 2020 by Trump — aimed at lowering suicide rates, police intervention in emergencies involving persons with mental illness and handling other mental health crises.
  • Urging Congress to approve $4 billion to help the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expand services as the pressures of COVID-19 have prompted record numbers to people to seek mental and behavioral health care.

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Welcome AHCJ’s newest members

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

Welcome new membersPlease welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ.

All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves. Continue reading

New health insurance subsidies will require strong explanatory journalism skills

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.

Number eligible for subsidies, American Rescue Plan, KFF.

American Rescue Plan, KFF.

On Thursday, some 7 million uninsured Americans became eligible for free health insurance under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) that President Biden signed into law in March, Dylan Scott reported at Vox. Other reports showed that some 11 million Americans became eligible for assistance paying for their health insurance premiums.

Scott’s reporting was based on what he said were new federal projections shared exclusively with Vox. When the ARP took effect on April 1, it greatly expanded eligibility for premium-payment assistance (also called subsidies or premium tax credits) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help individuals and families pay for health insurance coverage bought on the federal marketplace (at healthcare.gov) and on the state-run marketplaces, he noted. Continue reading

Tip sheet highlights ongoing problem of food insecurity for older adults

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.

food

Photo: Amanda Mills/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food insecurity is a nicer way of saying people are going hungry. Many of those people are older adults—often poor, with limited means of obtaining enough to eat. They must decide whether to spend their meager budgets on food, medication, or housing; many do not even know where their next meal is coming from.

Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one in seven adults between 50 and 80 had trouble getting enough food because of cost or other issues, according to a 2020 University of Michigan Healthy Aging poll. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse.

The pandemic has also exacerbated existing disparities among Black and Latino populations according to the USDA: Black and Latino adults are more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their households did not get enough to eat. We highlighted the issue of food insecurity back in June 2020 in this webinar. Has anything changed since March 2020? Continue reading

One journalist’s efforts to counter misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines

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.

Daniel Funke

Daniel Funke

Alarm over the impact of COVID-19 misinformation has been growing, especially with increasing efforts by right-wing groups to spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

The effort to end the pandemic through vaccination could stall if too many people refuse to take the vaccine because they don’t have the correct facts to make a decision. It can be a daily battle by journalists to correct false statements on social media — especially for those on the fact-checking beat.

“It is hard to stay on top of everything,” Daniel Funke, staff writer at PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking website, said during a recent How I Did It interview for AHCJ. “We don’t have a great way to quantify misinformation and where it is coming from because we’d have to fact check everything on the internet.” Continue reading

Vaccine hesitancy among rural elders, caregivers nearly double of more urban counterparts

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.

Older man with a band-aid on his upper arm

Photo: SELF Magazine via Flickr

A recent survey of family caregivers revealed some troubling information about the divide between rural and urban communities regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the poll, nearly one in three (31%) family caregivers who live in rural communities say they won’t take the older adult under their care to get the COVID-19 vaccine—nearly double the refusal rate of urban and suburban caregivers (16%). About the same number (36%) of rural caregivers say they won’t get vaccinated themselves.

Safety concerns primarily drive caregivers’ unwillingness to get the vaccine for their loved ones and themselves, according to survey respondents. Among the rural family caregivers surveyed, an overwhelming 81% have doubts that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and more than a quarter (28%) are “not at all confident” in the vaccine’s safety. In comparison, 9% of their urban and suburban peers are not at all confident. Taken together, experts say the findings show how difficult it will be to save lives in communities where access to healthcare is already limited. Continue reading