Tag Archives: HJ22

CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure kicks off AHCJ 2022 in Austin

Photo by Paola RodriguezCMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), opened AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2022 conference on Thursday, April 28, with a keynote address highlighting the importance of health care and CMS’s efforts to foster greater equity, access, and value, and how much health care is integrated into the fabric of our society.

Check out the full video of her speech and Q&A.

In her remarks, Brooks-LaSure explained just how much health care is part of the fabric of our society. While many people have been touched by the health system, many are still left out. The Affordable Care Act — in which Brooks-LaSure played a key policy role in developing and implementing — has certainly transformed the health system. However, there’s still too much inequity and multiple challenges to address. Brooks-LaSure has put forth six pillars to guide the agency’s thinking about their work and to ensure CMS measures results to ensure they are pursuing initiatives that address underlying disparities in the health system.


Following her brief opening remarks, Brooks-LaSure answered questions from the audience. Reporters took advantage of the opportunity to probe issues including Medicaid expansion, maternal mortality and CMS’s controversial decision to cover the newly approved Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm only for those enrolled in clinical trials. 


“I think it’s really important for people to understand that this was unique,” she said, referring to the Aduhelm decision. Normally, coverage decisions are made at a local level, but in this instance, CMS was asked to make a broader decision on this particular drug.

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Public records: Dig deep (but curb your expectations)

Lexi Churchill of ProPublica (at the podium) and Sandhya Kambhampati of the Los Angeles Times (to the right) talking to attendees during the FOIA panel at Health Journalism 2022. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Gilyard)

Rhode Island freelance writer Philip Eil, a veteran of an extended public records battle, has some stark advice for any journalist determined to wrestle important documents from the government: “Expect nothing, and expect it to take forever.”

That sounds discouraging. But, as Eil told colleagues on Thursday, April 29 at Health Journalism 2022 during the “Making FOIA work for you: How to get the public records you want” panel, low expectations serve two purposes. They help you avoid becoming emotionally involved. And they make your hard-won victories even sweeter.

Eil should know: His very first bid for public records turned into a fight that went all the way to a federal appeals court as he sought the documents he needed to report on the notorious “pill mill” physician whose opioid prescriptions ravaged an Ohio town. “I was unwilling,” he said, “to take no for an answer.”

Eil’s fellow panelists offered their own tips about mastering the art of public-record requests: Know the law (and cite it!), don’t always rely on email, look for alternative ways to get elusive information, and reach out for legal reinforcements when needed.

Adam Marshall, a senior staff attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, advised journalists to not only understand public records law but to remind government agencies of it in your public record requests. “There’s actually empirical research that shows that if you state a statutory provision, you will actually get a better response from the government,” he said.

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A few of my favorite things … in Austin

The South Congress Bridge in Austin.

Conference week is finally here! I can’t tell you how excited I am not only to attend my first in-person conference since 2019, but also to do so in my favorite U.S. city.

I’m an alumna of the University of Texas at Austin for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, so I spent a good chunk of both my young formative years and my just-married-and-started-a-family years in the Texas capital city. Many people already know that Austin is different from the rest of Texas, and yet also not so in the best possible ways.

I’m thrilled to share the city with so many colleagues, so I reached out to my fellow Austinites past and present to crowdsource a list of recommended restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other venues close to the Hilton.

See this Google spreadsheet for recommendations that include each establishment’s distance from the Hilton and whether or not they have outdoor seating. (If you have suggestions for the spreadsheet, email me at tara@health journalism.org to let me know and I’ll add it.)

I also want to draw attention to a couple of my especially-favorite places and some of Austin’s particularly unique activities.

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Tune into Facebook Live at 12:15 p.m. Friday to hear FDA Commissioner Califf

Robert Califf, M.D., M.A.C.C.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf will speak and take questions on Friday, April 29 at 12:15 p.m. CST, at AHCJ’s annual conference in Austin. His appearance will be streamed live on AHCJ’s Facebook page.

Califf will talk about the health threat posed by misinformation and disinformation, lessons from the pandemic, e-cigarettes, pain management without addiction, and the pressures on the drug approval process, among other topics. His remarks will be followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Kerry Dooley Young, AHCJ’s core topic leader on patient safety.

Califf, who was confirmed earlier this year as the 25th commissioner of the FDA, served as the agency’s commissioner at the end of the Obama administration. Dooley Young says Califf returned to the FDA at a critical time.

“Congress is in the midst of work on a new set of FDA user-free laws, which gives lawmakers a chance to try to shape agency policy,” she said.

“Califf is facing demands from members of Congress to both speed new drugs to market and to step up the pace of the research used to confirm benefits in cases of conditional approvals granted on promising, but limited evidence.”

Califf has had an extensive career as a physician, researcher, and leader in science and medicine and is a nationally recognized expert in cardiovascular medicine, health outcomes research, health care quality, and clinical research. He is also a leader in the growing field of translational research, which is key to ensuring that advances in science translate into medical care.

To watch Califf’s speech online, visit AHCJ’s Facebook page at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, April 29.

Stay tuned on social media and our conference app, Whova, for more important updates and details.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf to speak at Health Journalism ’22 in Austin

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., M.A.C.C.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., M.A.C.C., will talk about the agency’s main priorities on Friday, April 29, at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ first conference since 2019. His remarks will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Dr. Califf served as FDA commissioner at the end of the Obama administration. In returning to the post, he emphasized a need for the FDA to help counter misinformation about science that he says has become increasingly prevalent.

“These kinds of distortions and half-truths that find their way into the public domain do enormous harm, both by leading people to behavior that is detrimental to their health and by causing them to eschew interventions that would improve their health,” Califf said in a memo to staff.

Lessons from the pandemic, the health threat posed by e-cigarettes, pain management without addiction, and the pressures on the drug approval process will also likely be part of the conversation.

Califf was confirmed earlier this year as the 25th commissioner of the FDA — his second stint, having served in 2016.  Before assuming the role at that time, he was FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco.

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