Arielle Zionts (Photo courtesy of Kaiser Family Foundation)
Soon after Arielle Zionts, a rural health reporter for Kaiser Health News, read a press release about telehealth services for sexual assault survivors living in the rural U.S, she was inspired to pursue a story about it. Her article, published in January 2023, also addresses the shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners, also known as SANEs, in those parts of the country.
In this “How I Did It”, Zionts explains how she found the sources for her story, some of the challenges she faced in her reporting and shares story ideas.
Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts on covering private equity.
Lack of transparency is a giant hurdle in reporting on the growing influence of private equity in health care.
Reporters covering public corporations can easily obtain periodic financial reports and ownership disclosures that are filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Information about the finances and public benefits of nonprofit hospitals is readily available via the IRS’s Form 900.
A survey from KFF shows one in seven adults in the United States who have health care debt say a medical provider has denied them care due to their debt. Source: KFF Health Care Debt Survey (Feb. 25-Mar. 20, 2022). https://www.kff.org/report-section/kff-health-care-debt-survey-main-findings/ accessed dec. 23, 2022.
Recent news shows the need for health care journalists to investigate the aggressive measures hospitals use when patients can’t pay their medical bills.
On Dec. 21, Noam N. Levey, an award-winning senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News (KHN), reported that when patients can’t pay their bills, hundreds of the nation’s hospitals file lawsuits against those patients, sell patients’ bad-debt accounts to debt buyers and report patients to credit rating agencies.
From left to right: Sarah Jane Tribble, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News and featured luncheon speaker Stephanie Boynton, F.A.C.H.E., vice president and chief executive officer of critical access hospitals for Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital.
When reporting on the state of rural medical facilities, there’s more to the story than the demand for health care services. Other factors influence the survival, closure, or changes to services offered by providers in more sparsely populated areas. The economic prosperity of those regions, for instance, appears to be tightly intertwined with the type and quality of care accessible to the people who live there — who tend to be in worse health than their urban peers.
That was among the potential story threads that emerged during a presentation at AHCJ’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2022 in Chattanooga earlier this month. Stephanie Boynton, F.A.C.H.E., featured luncheon speaker and vice president and CEO of critical access hospitals for Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital, talked about the impact of Erlanger Health System’s acquisition of facilities in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.
In a collaboration between The Philadelphia Inquirer and Kaiser Health News, Harris Meyer looks at the case of colchicine, a drug used to treat gout that has been on the market so long that it predates the FDA approval process, and thus had never been approved.
Like thousands of drugs it existed in a sort of grandfathered generic state. That ended in 2009 when URL Pharma earned FDA approval for a branded version of the drug, which it sells for 50 times more per pill than the generic.
The drug company convinced the FDA that its version was safer than the generic, a claim disputed by many physicians. Now, Meyer reports, it’s likely that the generic colchicine will be forced from the market over the coming months, driving customers of the centuries-old drug (a natural version was first mentioned by the ancient Greeks) into the arms of URL Pharma. According to Meyer, the case is just one of several that have resulted from post-2006 FDA efforts to gain control and approval over all those grandfathered-in unregulated drugs.