Tag Archives: chicago

Chicago panel explores the world of drug pricing

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonCraig Garthwaite, assistant professor, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (left); Roy Guharoy, Pharm.D. vice president and chief pharmacy officer for the Resource Group at Ascension (middle); and independent journalist and AHCJ member Duncan Moore (right) spoke at the Chicago chapter event “Drug Pricing: Covering the Controversy” at Columbia College in Chicago on Feb. 23.

A blockbuster hepatitis C drug costs $84,000, straining state budgets. Martin Shkreli acquires the rights to a generic and raises its price 5,000 percent. Presidential candidates react to the public outcry, claiming they know what to do about the drug prices.

What does it all mean? Until recently, “there’s been an equilibrium in the public mind between a free market regimen of the market setting prices and what the public and payers are willing to pay,” said independent journalist Duncan Moore,  “but there are indications this informal tradeoff has begun to swing out of control.” Continue reading

Journalists learn about efforts to improve diagnostic process

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson(from left) Paul Epner of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, Dr. Karen Cosby of Rush University Medical School, and Dr. David Liebovitz of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. spoke to Chicago's AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson(from left) Paul Epner of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, Dr. Karen Cosby of Rush University Medical School, and Dr. David Liebovitz of Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. spoke to Chicago’s AHCJ chapter.

If you’ve read Dr. Lisa Sanders’ “Diagnosis” column in The New York Times Magazine, you know the process of identifying a patient’s problem can be fraught with opportunities for error. You also know diagnosis is rich territory for dramatic storytelling.

For health care journalists, it’s a great time to write about the topic. Errors in diagnosis are receiving new attention because of the recently released Institute of Medicine report “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care.” It’s part of the landmark “Quality Chasm Series” that produced the “To Err is Human” report in 2000 and the “Crossing the Quality Chasm” report in 2001. Continue reading

Experts suggest story ideas based on ACA implementation

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson

Photo: Carla K. Johnson
Dan Lustig, C. Scott Litch and Dr. John Rutkausas (left to right) spoke on a panel in Chicago about the Affordable Care Act.

Plenty of good story ideas await journalists willing to explore the nooks and crannies of the nation’s health care law. The Chicago chapter of AHCJ delved into some of these story ideas at a recent meeting titled “Fresh Stories Ahead for the Affordable Care Act.”

For instance, dental coverage for children is an essential health benefit under the law. Consumers in Illinois are able to buy pediatric dental coverage as a stand-alone plan, bundled with a medical plan or “embedded” into a medical plan. Panelist Dr. John R. Rutkausas, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, predicts consumers will be disappointed if they buy an embedded plan with a high deductible. It may be a rude surprise to learn they may have to pay all their children’s dental care out of pocket because they haven’t yet met their deductible. Continue reading

Chicago members learn about changing end-of-life conversations

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Julie Goldstein, M.D., Martha Twaddle, M.D., Mary Mulcahy, M.D., and Randi Belisomo (left to right) discussed end-of-life care at an AHCJ Chicago chapter event on June 11.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonJulie Goldstein, M.D., Martha Twaddle, M.D., Mary Mulcahy, M.D., and Randi Belisomo (left to right) discussed end-of-life care at an AHCJ Chicago chapter event on June 11.

A series of chats between two women on side-by-side elliptical trainers at a health club led to the founding of a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about end-of-life care.

On one machine was Randi Belisomo, a WGN reporter in Chicago and now a member of AHCJ. Beside her was Northwestern University oncologist Mary Mulcahy, M.D., who had treated Belisomo’s husband, political reporter Carlos Hernandez Gomez, as he died of colon cancer at age 36.

Belisomo and Mulcahy told the Chicago chapter of AHCJ how they co-founded Life Matters Media to spread the word about the importance of planning ahead to make one’s wishes known about medical care and quality of life before one’s death.

“We like to take the stance there’s no right or wrong in end-of-life decision making,” Belisomo said. “There’s only decision making.” Continue reading

Americans unprepared to pay for long-term care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In the Chicago Tribune, Deborah Shelton examines how unprepared Americans are to pay for their own long-term care needs as they age. Long-term care tends to slip under the radar because, as one of Shelton’s sources told her, “People buy insurance for their life because they know they are going to die, for their car because they know that can get in an accident and for their health because they know they can get sick, but people don’t tend to buy insurance because they think they are going to need someone to help them take a bath.”

faces-of-aging-largeLong-term care encompasses everything from nursing home fees to in-home assistance with everyday routines. It all comes with a price tag; Medicare only covers a limited amount and Medicaid programs apply only to those below certain economic thresholds. That leaves the middle class, who can’t afford the services but don’t really qualify for Medicaid, in the lurch, Shelton writes.

Most people assume Medicare will pay the bills, but the program covers long-term care only under certain conditions and for a limited time. While Medicaid covers long-term care, beneficiaries have to be poor or willing to “spend down” their assets to be eligible. Private insurance can be expensive and excludes applicants with serious medical problems.

As a result, many families pay out of pocket until they exhaust their resources and then turn to Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act attempted to fill in the blanks, but long-term care provisions of that reform plan withered under intense cost pressure.

An initiative that would have incorporated long-term care into the Obama administration’s health reform plan was scrapped in October after actuaries determined that it would not be financially self-sustainable over the long haul. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act would have created a voluntary, self-funded, employer-based insurance option to help people save for long-term care.

Related

Cash-strapped Ill. goes after hospitals’ nonprofit status

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

A New York Times article written by Bruce Japsen, an independent journalist writing for the Chicago News Co-Op, digs into Illinois’ recent challenges to the tax exemptions granted to a trio of prominent hospitals by virtue of their nonprofit status. The challenge, inspired in part by the state supreme court’s willingness to uphold the revocation of the nonprofit status of an Catholic hospital in Urbana last year, could expand to more than a dozen other institutions as the state scrambles to cover a looming revenue shortfall.

In its case, the state alleges that the hospitals aren’t providing a high enough proportion of charity care to fulfill the mission of a nonprofit.

All three of the hospitals the state is focusing on provided free and discounted medical care that ranged from 0.96 percent to 1.85 percent of patient-care revenue, according to the revenue department. The state also said that each one had been operating as a “for profit” business when the state’s Constitution says that “only charities are entitled to a tax exemption.”

The hospitals, for their part, point to the other benefits they provide the community, such as neonatal intensive care and burn units, that don’t always bolster their bottom lines. Advocates answer that paying taxes provides a community benefit as well, one that can readily be measured in dollars and cents. And Japsen found that paying those taxes doesn’t even seem to preclude the provision of charity care, especially at the parsimonious levels provided by the hospitals currently targeted by the state.

“The relative amounts of charity care provided by not-for-profit tax-exempts are not materially different from the amount provided by for-profit hospitals,” said Jim Unland, a longtime analyst of Illinois’ health care industry and president of the Health Capital Group, a consulting firm in Chicago. “This raises the issue of whether the tax-exempts are getting prejudicially favorable treatment.”

The three hospitals whose tax exemptions have been stripped by the state department of revenue plan to challenge the action in court, and state hospital organizations are gearing up for a lobbying push they hope will put their tax status on firmer ground.