KBIA Mid-Missouri Public Radio listeners were recently offered an insightful report on the problems poor adults in the state have been facing in getting dental care.
Nearly a decade ago, Missouri eliminated funding for all Medicaid beneficiaries except children, pregnant women and the disabled.
The move “left a lot of people with only bad options,” reporter Katie Hiler explained, borrowing a quote from the film “Argo.”
To illustrate the point, Hiler invited her audience along on a visit to a rare charity clinic called Smiles of Hope, run out of a converted church attic. At the clinic, dentist William Kane spoke of his efforts to meet the overwhelming need for services such as emergency extractions.
Hiler ended her report with some news. A decision by the Missouri legislature to restore funding for adult dental care under Medicaid is expected to help to give some poor Missourians more options, she observed.
Yet at the same time, 300,000 low-income adults who would qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are at this point shut out because of the state’s refusal to expand the program.
“Which means,” Hiler noted in closing, “Smiles of Hope isn’t going anywhere.”
In a Q&A for AHCJ, Hiler offers some thoughts on what got her started on this story and how her work unfolded. She also shares some wisdom on what it takes to make a radio story come alive.
Image by Official U.S. Navy Page via flickr.
Reporter Katie Hiler decided to look into dental care for the poor in Missouri. The situation, she concluded in her reporting for KBIA Mid-Missouri Public Radio, might best be summed up by a quote from the film Argo: “There are only bad options. It’s about finding the best one.”
Nearly a decade ago, the state eliminated funding for all Medicaid beneficiaries except children, pregnant women and the disabled, she explained.
The move “left a lot of people with only bad options,” she says in a May 15 report.
“Many find themselves in the ER with tooth infections, where cost for treatment per patient can run on average around $9,000. Some try to find affordable care at Federally Qualified Health Centers where services are discounted for low-income patients, but aren’t free.” For the very poor, she added “the only option is charity dental care.” Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I reached out to a disease charity for comment on a story I was working on. Disease charities are nonprofits like the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, etc., that raise money to support the research, care and awareness of people who live with a given condition.
The story was about a rare but very dangerous side effect that was tied to new drug. The side effect is considered so serious that other drugs that cause it have been yanked off the market because of the risk.
I expected the scientific officer I spoke with to react to this news, which was published in a top-tier medical journal, with alarm and concern for patients who were taking the medication, which is poised to become a blockbuster. Instead, though, he was largely dismissive of the reports. He extolled the potential benefits of the newly approved medication for patients.
As reporters, we all have those moments when our spider senses tingle. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly why, but something just doesn’t feel right. Continue reading
AHCJ has just released a new trove of information from GuideStar on the finances of nonprofit U.S. hospitals. This information – from tax years 2009 and 2010 – contains carefully selected highlights from the hospital’s IRS 990 forms, which nonprofits must file to maintain their mostly tax-free status.
Reporters can use this AHCJ spreadsheet to get:
- detailed salary info on top executives
- the institution’s charity care and community benefit numbers
- a hospital’s lobbying expenses
- and the business relationships of board members, among other things.
This data will be discussed at the Health Journalism 2013 session, “Diving into documents: Using 990s and more to cover hospital finances,” on Sunday at 10:40 am. Howard Rivenson, senior lecturer on health management, Harvard School of Public Health, will join me to help demystify hospital finances.
The newest material from 2010 is here and here are last year’s data.
In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jane Friedmann used simple tax documents and a local woman’s complaint to show that most of the money raised by the Austim Spectrum Disorder Foundation goes toward sustaining the foundation’s fundraising, not toward families living with autism. It’s a brief, effective piece of reporting of the sort that can and should be localized more often. For the record, here are the numbers Friedmann got from the return.
The charitable group pulled in $1.2 million in 2009, according to its IRS filing, but the charity listed a negative balance of $29,679 at the end of the year. It listed three employees and 89,128 “volunteers” …
The group hired two companies to raise funds for ASDF in 2009, but neither did much to help the cause. Ohio-based Infocision kept all $876,832 it raised, while Missouri-based Precision Performance Marketing kept all but $37,842 of the $203,227 it raised.
The tax form reveals the group held no “structured, formal meetings” in 2009. It spent $313,751 on “materials and fulfillment” and $120,241 on postage.
She also called local and national autism charities for their perspective on the dubious foundation, then included a few paragraphs which helped readers make more informed choices when doling out charitable contributions.
To investigate charitable organizations in your area, find out how to to understand an IRS 990 form, the tax return that nonprofit organizations file. It tells you the organization’s revenues and expenses, and its assets and liabilities. You can see whether or not it is making a profit, and how its fund balance, or net assets, has changed over the past year.