Tag Archives: appleby

New AHCJ board seated for 2012-13

Scott Hensley, NPR’s Shots blog writer and editor, joins five incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2012-13 board of directors.

Scott Hensley
Scott Hensley

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News; AHCJ Treasurer Ivan Oransky, M.D., Reuters Health; Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News; Andy Miller, Georgia Health News; and Irene Wielawski, independent journalist. Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman, a longtime board member and contributing editor for Columbia Journalism Review, chose not to run for re-election.

Hensley has served on AHCJ’s membership committee since 2009 and helped refine its membership rules. Longtime Covering Health readers will remember that Hensley contributed to this blog for several months in 2009.

Before joining NPR in the summer of 2009, he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog after several years of print reporting for the Journal and previously a reporter at Modern Healthcare and American Banker.

The newly seated board members join those elected last year for two-year terms: AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, ProPublica; Vice President Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal; Gideon Gil, The Boston Globe; Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press; and Maryn McKenna, independent journalist.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A new wave of hospital consolidation looms

Nationally, the hospital consolidation craze has leveled off since its 2006 peak, but Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Julie Appleby, an AHCJ board member, reports that acquisitions are on the march again, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Appleby found that this rising wave is due, in part at least, to health care reform and its emphasis on integrated care and Accountable Care Organizations.

Hospital leaders from Baltimore to Seattle say the health law approved by Congress in March gives them even more reason to merge with or buy rivals because of its emphasis on integrated systems where hospitals and doctors better coordinate care.

Also fueling the trend: More doctors want to be employed directly by hospitals, allowing them more job security without the hassles of running a business. But hiring groups of doctors can be an “expensive and daunting proposition” for a stand-alone facility, says Steven Thompson, senior vice president for Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Nationally and locally, he says, “it’s fair to say that (independent) hospitals are talking with everyone, feeling that they don’t want to be the last one standing.”

Other causes include increasingly contentious negotiations with insurers, more direct employment of doctors and access to the capital needed to adopt things like electronic medical records.

We were pointed to the KHN story by AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman’s cjr.org column, in which she compares hospital consolidation to HMOs and insurance consolidation.

It was good to see Appleby’s story, because the media pretty much gave hospitals a bye during the reform debate, instead making insurance companies the saga’s primary villains. Quietly, though, it seems the hospitals were up to the same thing as the insurers—organizing themselves into larger and larger groups with tons of market power to keep insurance premiums in the stratosphere.

Corporations push domestic medical tourism

AHCJ Board Member and Kaiser Health News reporter Julie Appleby explores the emerging phenomenon of domestic medical tourism, a catchy name for the corporate art of comparison-shopping for hospitals across the country.


Photo by contraption via Flickr

“By steering workers to facilities with high-quality care and lower prices,” Appleby writes, “employers say they can reduce their costs 20 percent to 40 percent — more than enough to cover the travel expenses.” The reduction in the cost comes not just from cheaper service, but because treatment at higher-quality centers leads to fewer complications.

There’s no universal national clearinghouse for the sort of data companies are using for this comparison shopping, and each of the field’s pioneers seem to have a different method. At least one uses the hospital ratings produced by Health Grades, while Lowes has signed a deal with the Cleveland Clinic. Employees are sometimes reluctant to travel, but the prospect of cheaper, better care has proved attractive.

Appleby’s sources found the trend difficult to quantify, but clearly growing.

AHCJ board names new officers

AHCJ board officersThe AHCJ board of directors elected a new set of officers to take their seats at the upcoming fall board meeting.

Charles Ornstein of ProPublica was selected as president, Karl Stark of The Philadelphia Inquirer was named vice president, Ivan Oransky of Reuters Health was named treasurer and Julie Appleby of Kasier Health News was named secretary. Trudy Lieberman, board president for the past five years, assumes the new role of immediate past president.

A new board was seated after July elections by the entire AHCJ membership. The board members then voted on officers.

Other members of the board of directors are Felice J. Freyer of The Providence Journal; Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News; Andrew Holtz, a Portland, Ore., independent journalist; Carla K. Johnson of The Associated Press; Maryn McKenna, an independent journalist and author; Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press; and Irene Wielawski, an independent journalist from Pound Ridge, N.Y.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Costs critical to stories about health care (#ahcj09)

Guest post by Jason Roberson of  The Dallas Morning News

For the most part, health care journalists are shortchanging readers by not focusing more on costs, according to Friday’s AHCJ conference panel, “Explaining costs in health stories.”

Health care costs represent 16 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, but only 28 percent of health-related stories cover costs, according to Gary Schwitzer, publisher of HealthNewsReview.org. His assessment comes from a three-year study of more than 750 health care stories.

In one of Schwitzer’s examples from the Associated Press, the writer failed to mention that the price of a new breast cancer drug would cost several thousands of dollars a month, putting it out of reach for most patients.

“Do you care about people like this when you write these stories?” Schwitzer asked.

Other panelists expounded on alarming health care cost increases and the need for clarity.

“Ten years from now we’ll be spending $4 trillion in health care,” said Glenn Melnick, professor at the University of Southern California. “Those are almost [Troubled Assets Relief Program] numbers.”

Health insurance premiums are not experiencing the same double-digit increases seen earlier in the decade, said Melnick, citing a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report. But in such stories, journalists error in not explaining other insurance cost trends, like so-called benefit buy downs, where increased cost sharing or reduced benefits within the policy lowers nominal premium but not the real total cost, Melnick said.

In kicking off the panel discussion, moderator Julie Appleby, AHCJ board member and Kaiser Health News senior correspondent, offered two simple questions to help steer health care reporting in the right direction.

Said Appleby: “How much is it going to cost? And who is going to pay for it?”