COVID relief bill bans some surprise medical bills, but not all

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.

us-capitolLeaders of both political parties in the U.S. House and Senate reached agreement Sunday to pass a $900 billion bill to stimulate the economy. That bill also included language supporting a long-sought plan to end surprise medical bills for some patients.

In addition, the bill will fund distribution of vaccines for the coronavirus and aid individuals and businesses struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.

Members of the House and Senate passed the measure on Monday night as a deadline loomed to fund federal government operations through September. Continue reading

New resources for covering inequities in insurance, care during pandemic

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.

COVID disparities

Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D., is afraid of needles. Nevertheless, she agreed to receive her coronavirus vaccine on national television last Friday, along with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, M.D.

Rice, who is dean of Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine, knows the history of racism in medical research and understands some Black Americans’ reluctance to get the vaccine. As CNN’s Nicquel Terry Ellis reported, Rice trusts the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and would not recommend it if she did not trust it. To emphasize the point, Rice noted that Black scientists and doctors played significant roles in developing the vaccine and reviewing Pfizer’s FDA application for approval. Continue reading

AHCJ names 2020 National Cancer Reporting Fellows

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Twelve journalists have been chosen for the 2020 class of the National Cancer Reporting Fellowship. The program is supported by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The fellows will spend three partial days online Jan. 12-14, 2021, with experts from the National Institutes of Health and other experts to increase their understanding of and ability to report accurately on complex scientific findings, provide insight into the work of cancer researchers and to better localize cancer-related stories.

The 2020 fellowship class includes:

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As nursing home death and infection rates rise, how is isolation affecting seniors?

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-walker

Photo: SalFalko via Flickr

As the U.S. enters what experts predict may be the most severe months yet of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of infections and deaths among residents and workers in nursing homes is rapidly rising.

Much of the nation is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and perhaps no situation is more concerning than that of nursing home residents and workers. A report released Dec. 10 by two senators ― Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Finance Committee, and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging ― indicate an already-dire situation in nursing homes is worsening. Continue reading

Who is Jeffrey Zients, the soon-to-be White House coronavirus czar?

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.

Jeffrey Zients

As President-elect Joe Biden develops a strategy for ending the pandemic, the person who will be in charge of executing the plan will be Jeffrey Zients.

Zients, who Biden named the White House coronavirus czar, is a businessman and former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. In the new role, he’ll be corralling federal, state and local resources to create a national testing program, to fix gaps in the medical supply chain and to expand the roll out of coronavirus vaccines.

On Monday, the Trump administration began distributing the first of 40 million doses of vaccines which are to be administered by the end of 2020. More doses of vaccines are expected to be manufactured and distributed in early 2021, and Biden pledged to get 100 million doses of vaccines to people around the country within his first 100 days of office. Continue reading

SCOTUS ruling allows states to regulate what PBMs pay pharmacists

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.

Photo by dbking via Flickr

States seeking to regulate pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) won an important victory on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0, rejecting a challenge to a law the state of Arkansas passed in 2015 to put restrictions on PBMs. The ruling could allow states to regulate PBMs, as Darrel Rowland reported for The Columbus Dispatch.

Rowland is a member of an award-winning team of reporters and editors at the Dispatch who have covered PBMs in Ohio and elsewhere since January 2018, as we reported on this blog.

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