Legislation update: The PRO Act passes the House and is now in the Senate

About Jeanne Erdmann and Kendall Powell

Jeanne Erdmann (@jeanne_erdmann) is a member of AHCJ's board of directors and is chair of the freelance committee. Freelance science writer Kendall Powell (@KendallSciWrite) covers the realm of biology, from molecules to maternity.

Congress

Photo: Bodo Tasche via Flickr

Recently, the House passed the PRO Act (H.R. 842 Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021). This legislation is described as a bill that protects workers’ right to organize, but there’s an issue of particular concern to freelancers — and editors and publishers who hire them.

The bill is now with the U.S. Senate. Freelancers in many areas including independent screenwriters, photographers, songwriters, models, accountants, and financial advisers are most concerned because the legislation uses California’s ABC Test to decide who is an employee and who is an independent contractor.

Under the, ABC Test, a worker is considered an employee and not an independent contractor, unless the hiring entity satisfies all three of the following conditions: Continue reading

How one journalist pivoted her writing during the pandemic

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.

Stephani Sutherland

Stephani Sutherland

At the beginning of the pandemic, Stephani Sutherland, a freelance writer focused on chronic pain issues, was — like many writers — finding that publications suddenly wanted COVID-19 stories and not much else.

Sutherland, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, decided to get up to speed in areas of infectious diseases and virology as fast as she could. As she delved into the research, she learned about an interesting connection between pain research and some of the long-term symptoms being felt by those infected with SARS-CoV-2, such as brain fog and loss of smell. Continue reading

New Alzheimer’s drug shows promise, but don’t celebrate yet

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: vestque via Flickr

Photo: vestque via Flickr

A recent announcement by drugmaker Eli Lilly that its drug donanemab slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s by nearly one-third is giving many patients, caregivers and providers reason for optimism. But let’s not do a happy dance quite yet.

I don’t want to diminish anyone’s hope, especially the estimated 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. But it’s prudent to remember that other drug companies have shown promising initial results for Alzheimer’s drugs, only to find that larger-scale Phase 3 trials didn’t pan out, as Gina Kolata of The New York Times notes. Continue reading

Resources for journalists on how the American Rescue Plan will reduce the number of uninsured Americans

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.

American Rescue Plan Act: Health Coverage Provisions Explained,

Source: “American Rescue Plan Act: Health Coverage Provisions Explained,” from the Center for Children and Families and the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, March 11, 2021.The American Rescue Plan reduces the maximum income contribution households would need to pay for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, limiting the top level to 8.5% of income.

Included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) that President Biden signed into law last Thursday is an estimated $34 billion to fund the Affordable Care Act’s most significant expansion since Congress passed the ACA in 2010.

The new law is expected to extend health insurance coverage to about 2.5 million uninsured Americans, according to a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

“The American Rescue Plan will be the biggest coverage expansion in the 11-year history of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said a spokesperson for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Now that the bill is signed into law, HHS will provide additional information about implementation. Continue reading

Federal law criticized for excluding certain Medicaid patients from psychiatric care

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: Alachua County via Flickr

Photo: Alachua County via Flickr

A federal law that has long led to severely mentally ill Medicaid patients not receiving needed care at many psychiatric facilities has outlived its presumed usefulness, according to a recent report.

A February 2021 analysis by the Manhattan Institute documents how a federal institutes for mental diseases (IMDs) exclusion enacted in 1965 discourages states from investing in patient care and restricts care and access. The IMD exclusion bars states from using the federal portion of Medicaid payments for services rendered “inside or outside” IMDs. They include hospitals, nursing homes or other facilities with 16 or more beds that primarily provide mental health care. The exclusion targets Medicaid patients ages 21 to 64 years old. Continue reading

One year later: What we know (and still don’t) about COVID-19

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: Olgierd via Flickr

Photo: Olgierd via Flickr

I know all health care journalists have been taking stock over the past year and how COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives. For me, it’s been astonishing, exhausting, gratifying and heartbreaking to be a part of writing the first draft of this pandemic history.

Though I had been writing about the potential for a pandemic for years, I didn’t become genuinely scared that we were really heading towards a pandemic until Feb. 12, 2020. I had listened to a U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs hearing called, “Roundtable: Are We Prepared? Protecting the U.S. from Global Pandemics,” in which former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned committee members that it was likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was circulating undetected in the U.S. and we would be seeing the impact within a few weeks. Continue reading