Tag Archives: health care

Report shows consumers could save even more on health insurance

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform. He welcomes questions and suggestions and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Image courtesy of The Commonwealth Fund

Reporting on how much consumers will save on health insurance under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has never been easy, but last week, it got more complicated.

Previous studies on how ARPA would affect household spending on health insurance underestimated the effects of the law, according to a report on Oct. 6 from the Commonwealth Fund. That means consumers could spend much less out of pocket for copayments and deductibles if Congress passes the reforms being debated now under budget deliberations. The increased savings come because of a recalculation of the effects of ARPA, the fund reported.

Although the recalculation didn’t get much coverage, this story is important for journalists because the increased savings could be in the billions of dollars. In addition, the reforms proposed in Congress would cut the number of Americans without health insurance by 7 million, the fund reported.

In a report the fund published in September, “The Coverage and Cost Effects of Key Health Insurance Reforms Being Considered by Congress,” researchers from the Urban Institute noted that members of Congress have proposed a budget this year that includes reforming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in two ways. One reform would make permanent the enhanced premium subsidies in ARPA that otherwise would expire at the end of next year. The other reform would fix what’s called the Medicaid coverage gap by extending eligibility for subsidies on the ACA marketplaces to people earning below 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

In those 12 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming), Medicaid eligibility for adults is strictly limited. The median annual income limit for a family of three is just 41% of the FPL, or $8,905. Also, childless adults are ineligible.

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Understanding the health care debate among Democratic candidates

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, has been AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curated related material at healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

puzzleFor better or for worse, health care continues to dominate the Democratic primary. If you’re having trouble understanding precisely where each candidate stands, you aren’t alone. It sometimes seems they aren’t quite sure either.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, of course, are the most prominent advocates of a “pure” single-payer coverage system called Medicare for All. It would ban private insurance and significantly overhaul the current system within a few years. (Warren also has an interim coverage plan before Medicare for All). Continue reading

Brill reminds New York AHCJ members to follow the money

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News 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.

AHCJ New York members gained a unique look this week into how journalist, author, and businessman Steven Brill researched and compiled his now-infamous 36-page Time Magazine articleBitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” The article took a hard look at the costs of hospital care in the United States – from the $70 box of gauze pads to a $50,000 up-front payment demand by one top cancer facility before doctors there would even evaluate a terminally ill patient.

That March 4 opus added fuel to an already contentious debate about the skyrocketing cost of U.S. health care. Brill emphasized the huge price discrepancies between what it costs hospitals and what they charge Medicare, private insurers, and direct-billed patients for identical care. “It was really a question of just doing some math,” he said.

Brill detailed his efforts to get satisfactory explanations from hospital CEOs about their multimillion dollar salaries while someone who had no health insurance was paying perhaps hundreds of dollars for a product that could be purchased in a local drugstore for pocket change.  He explained how he obtained copies of actual hospital bills – for hundreds of thousand of dollars in some cases – and how he tracked down and analyzed the price differentials charged to public, private and non-insured patients. Continue reading

Investigation: Peace Corps health system failing to provide for volunteers

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 recent years, there has been a steady drumbeat of troubling news about federal support for Peace Corps volunteers, including a GAO report, federal legislation, and even a statement from the Corps’ acting director. Over at FairWarning, Lilly Fowler has worked with former volunteers to organize this steady stream of negative press into a report that the Peace Corps is not providing adequate health coverage to its volunteers, both past and present.

Fowler’s report dives deep into the bureaucracy surrounding the Corps’ treatment of health care claims, but the heart of the matter is quite simple:

Interviews by FairWarning with more than a dozen former Peace Corps personnel – about half of them members of Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, an advocacy group – highlighted the struggles of harmed volunteers. Many failed to gain government-paid medical care when they returned to the U.S. because they couldn’t find doctors registered with FECA. What’s more, they say, claims for medical insurance reimbursements often bog down or are rejected because of bureaucratic bottlenecks and the lack of information provided to volunteers.

There have been many attempts to reform the system in recent years, Fowler finds, but none have led to comprehensive or lasting change.

Putting the health care bill into perspective

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s the central question in an article from the Associated Press’ Carla Johnson that explores how the health care bill would affect five Americans.

The people profiled include a tenuously insured student working part-time, an uninsured consultant, a business owner, an uninsured man living in a shelter for the homeless and a Florida retiree.

As Johnson points out, how the health care bill will affect people depends a great deal on their age, income, your business and your current insurance. But this is a useful vantage point for telling the stories that really matter: how policy affects real life.