Reporter looks at misuse of rapid COVID-19 tests in nursing homes

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.

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient.

Photo: NIAID via FlickrTransmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient.

It can be difficult in normal times to get reliable, timely information from many long-term care facilities without filing FOIAs or diving deep into inspection reports. During this COVID-19 pandemic, it can be nearly impossible. So when Kaiser Health News’ Rachana Pradhan wanted to learn whether, and how, nursing homes were conducting all-important testing of residents and staff, it’s not surprising she ran into a few roadblocks. Continue reading

New tip sheet looks at mental health effects of COVID-19 on older adults

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.

Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all under tremendous stress. Social isolation, loneliness, fear of getting sick, an uncertain economy … the list goes on. According to a mid-July Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, 53% of adults in the United States reported negative mental health effects due to concern and anxiety about the novel coronavirus.

One demographic at especially high risk of mental health issues is older adults, due to their higher probability of contracting the disease, known mental and physical health consequences of isolating, and existing co-morbidities. “The share of older adults (ages 65 and up) reporting negative mental health impacts has increased since March,” according to KFF. Continue reading

Wide variations in health care providers’ charges raise questions about the right rate

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.

Source: Analysis of Spending on Shoppable Services in Massachusetts, the Pioneer Institute, Boston, August 2020.

Source: Analysis of Spending on Shoppable Services in Massachusetts, the Pioneer Institute, Boston, August 2020.

Early last month, a report from the Pioneer Institute in Boston showed that Massachusetts consumers could have saved $22 million in 2015 if they got health care from lower-cost providers instead of from the highest-priced health care providers.

In “Analysis of Spending on Shoppable Services in Massachusetts,” researchers wrote that consumers could have saved $116.6 million if the savings were adjusted for inflation over four years.

The researchers analyzed what providers charged in 2015 for 16 shoppable services, such as elective or non-emergent surgery. Continue reading

One in five nursing homes still lack sufficient PPE

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.

Surgical masks

Photo: Petra Wessman via Flickr

Despite promises from the Trump administration, a recent study confirmed that many nursing homes still lack the necessary resources to address the COVID-19 crisis adequately in their facilities. Analysis from a national database reflecting 98% of U.S. nursing homes found that more than one in five reported a severe shortage of PPE and staff from May to July.

My colleague Joe Burns and I previously highlighted a report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) showing that since July 26, 33 states have reported a positive infection rate from coronavirus tests of over 5%.

Continue reading

The challenge of finding data on COVID-19 testing and school openings

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.

Dodger Stadium testing site

Photo: Chris Yarzab via Flickr

There is no federal standardized dataset on COVID-19, testing and school reopenings, making it challenging for journalists to report a national perspective of the pandemic.

Filling in the void are efforts created by journalists, such as the COVID-19 Tracking Project. Other sources include nonprofit organizations like the Kaiser Family Foundation and academic groups that include the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. Continue reading

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