For Heather Wolford, a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, covering the growing opioid crisis in the rural hills of Western Maryland was, quite literally, a calling.
Now two years into her health coverage of the epidemic, Wolford was driven by a journalist’s instinct to find out what was happening in her community, from those using the drugs, police officers and government officials, to family members on all sides of the crisis.
“When I repeatedly heard daily overdose calls over the office scanner, I asked my boss if I could dive into the crisis,” she said. Continue reading
Photo: Rebecca KigerPatients wait for treatment at a West Virginia day program for substance abuse.
The Ohio Valley ReSource is an award-winning collaborative of seven public radio stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky that have partnered to produce some fine multimedia work on rural health and Affordable Care Act. Their region has been hard hit by the opioid crisis and the spread of HIV – expanded health care coverage under the ACA is seen as critical in combating both.
The collaborative has done a nice mix of narrative and policy – looking at coal miners, alcoholism, job creation and rural providers, particularly clinics. Continue reading
In-depth investigations into heroin and pain-pill abuse drew several top awards in this year’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.
The 2016 awards, announced today by the Association of Health Care Journalists, recognize the best health reporting in 11 categories. This year, the contest’s 13th, drew nearly 400 entries.
Winning entries included investigations into inflated prescription-drug prices, agricultural practices fueling antibiotic resistance, and poor oversight of dangerous drug interactions.
Read more about the winners.
On Monday, analysis from the Congressional Budget Office showed that 24 million more Americans would become uninsured over 10 years if the U.S. House Republican’s bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) becomes law. Coverage of the CBO report overshadowed other news last week that the proposed American Health Care Act also would slash insurance coverage for those who are addicted to opioids and other drugs, according to reporting in USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Deirdre Shesgreen and Terry DeMio on March 9 reported the bill would freeze the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provisions and limit federal payments to the states for all beneficiaries. That would result in a disproportionately adverse effect on patients coping with mental illness and addiction, they wrote. Continue reading
Photo: Debora Cartagena/CDC
Health care journalists covering addiction, overdoses, and the heroin epidemic are likely to learn that the health insurance system appears to be part of the problem. That’s what Terry DeMio found on her beat in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. Since January 2016, DeMio has been the Cincinnati Enquirer’s heroin epidemic reporter.
Rather than paying for the best medications for drug addicts in need, health insurers often require patients to start with the lowest-cost drugs. Then if the lowest-cost prescription fails, insurers then pay for the next highest-cost drug. Called fail-first or step therapy, this process repeats until the patient finds one that works. Meanwhile, the patient suffers or could die, DeMio said. Continue reading