Tag Archives: oklahoma

Papers combine forces to investigate group homes

Pia Christensen

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.

Reporters from The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World teamed up to report on Oklahoma’s residential care homes and “Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded,” which are homes for developmentally disabled people. [Oklahoman | Tulsa World]

In their review of more than 40,000 records from federal, state and local agencies, including inspection and investigative reports and letters, the reporters found more than 800 violations, including inappropriate medical care, abuse and neglect. Four cases involved the death of a patient.

Inspectors documented residents who were covered in feces, stolen from, or left to sleep on dirty mattresses.

Some were supervised by felons. Others lived in buildings infested with ants, cockroaches and mice.

At least two people were allegedly raped.

Residential care homes, intended for people who are ambulatory and don’t require routine skilled nursing care, are only inspected once every two years.

The reporters created an online database from the records. The state’s health department is in the process of scanning inspection and investigation reports of group homes to put them on its Web site, a project it expects to complete by the end of the summer.

The report also looks at what a proposed cut in funding might mean for Oklahoma’s group homes and how current shortfalls are delaying community care services for thousands.

The project was done by Tulsa World reporters Ginnie Graham, Gavin Off and Michael Overall and Oklahoman reporters Sonya Colberg, Ann Kelley and Vallery Brown. A sidebar explains more about the series.

Medical tourism expected to continue growth

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.

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Carolyn Lochhead writes that the draw of medical tourism lies with both transparency and affordability and implies that its success shows the need for an overhaul of the U.S. medical system.plane-wing

She also notes that the reform efforts don’t seem likely to change those two central systematic problems, and thus medical tourism is likely to be here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. The piece also explores the consumer side of medical tourism, profiling an Oklahoma surgeon who competes on price and transparency.

The article also cites an executive who advises that the economics of going overseas for treatment start making sense when the American price tag for a procedure reaches about $15,000.


Bundled payments may improve care, lower costs

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.

Kaiser Health News’ Phil Galewitz looks at bundling hospital payments, a possible solution to the confusion and cost of separate billing. Under these programs (now in Tulsa and San Antonio, and coming soon to Denver, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City), “Medicare makes a single reimbursement for all the hospital and doctor care for heart and joint procedures, rather than making separate payments to the facility and physicians.”

In theory, the benefits are clear:

Bundling payments moves medical charges away from the traditional fee-for-service system that pays providers separately for individual services — an arrangement critics of the current system say leads to doctors and hospitals delivering more care, but not better care.

It looks like the program’s making a difference. A hospital executive admits the bundled payments make hospitals more reluctant to consult specialists (because the payment from Medicare remains the same and doesn’t rise to meet the cost of a specialist) but says the increased attention to quality brought by the bundling has improved patient care.

Similarly, Galewitz writes that a similar program in the mid 1990s “saved $42.3 million over three years, with costs decreasing from 10% to 37% at the four hospitals participating in the test.”

State’s paid promotions appear to be newscasts

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.

Tulsa World reporter Kim Archer found that the state of Oklahoma paid a media conglomerate $3 million in exchange for advertising of the state insurance program on two local TV affiliates, including spots that appear to be news segments.

David Griffin, president and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Griffin Communications LLC, said the company believes in transparency.

“We don’t sell the news. We never have, and we never will,” he said. “The spots that run match up to our commitment to Insure Oklahoma.”

Archer reported that the sponsorship agreement was disclosed on air, and quoted a news director who compared it to the relationship between newspapers and their advertisers.

The media spots, featuring former local television reporter Angela Buckelew, “blend seamlessly into the newscasts of KOTV and KWTV, with Buckelew acting as reporter and telling the individual stories of employees of small businesses who have benefited from the subsidized health insurance plan.”

“This kind of question arises when news media organizations try to diversify, when they are looking at more ways to make money,” said Joey Senat, associate professor of media law at Oklahoma State University. “It does create the potential for unethical behavior.”