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Contest Entries

Kay Lazar's 2010 Body of Work

Entrants: Kay Lazar

Affiliation: The Boston Globe

Beat Reporting

Year: 2010

Place: First Place

Judges' comments:

Kay Lazar of The Boston Globe, for the range and depth of her health policy coverage, and its measurable impact. Her reporting on no-bid contracts for Medicaid and on "gamers" who exploited a loophole in Massachusetts' universal health coverage law exposed costly problems and drew responses from state regulators and lawmakers. Her reporting on excessive use of antipsychotic drugs in state nursing homes prompted regulatory review and new training. Her news feature story about a store owner with early-onset Alzheimer illustrated the impact of a devastating disease and the genetic testing quandary facing family members.

1. Provide the title of your story or series and the names of the journalists involved.

Body of work by Kay Lazar.

See this contest entry.

2. List date(s) this work was published or aired.

March 8, 2010; April 4, 2010; Nov. 14, 2010; Dec. 24, 2010

3. Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

The March 8, 2010, story about antipsychotic medications given to patients in nursing homes showed that Massachusetts facilities rank among the highest in the nation for such usage. A substantial number of nursing home patients have dementia, which puts them at greater risk for death when given these medicines.

The Nov. 18, 2010, article detailed the impact of our earlier coverage of this issue: State regulators and industry leaders formed a task force and launched an educational campaign to reduce the inappropriate use of the medications.

The April 4, 2010, article highlighted an unintended consequence of Massachusetts' pioneering health care reform law: Thousands of consumers gaming the system by buying insurance when they needed pricey medical care and then swiftly dropping coverage, a practice that, officials said drives up costs for everyone else. A report commissioned by state regulators later found similar problems, and Massachusetts legislators subsequently passed a new law aimed at fixing the issue.

The Dec. 24, 2010, story revealed the widespread practice of no-bid contracts in the Massachusetts Medicaid procurement system and the $400,000-plus salaries of officials involved in the contracting process.

4. Explain types of documents, data or Internet resources used. Were FOI or public records act requests required? How did this affect the work?

The March 8, 2010 story used material obtained through a FOI to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The April 4, 2010, story used data from the state's insurance companies. The Dec. 24, 2010, story used numerous FOIs to the state's Medicaid office, and confidential state reports given to The Boston Globe by sources.

5. Explain types of human sources used.

None.

6. Results (if any).

Following the March 8, 2010, story about the use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, Massachusetts regulators and industry leaders formed a task force and launched an educational campaign to reduce the inappropriate use of the medications. Following the April 4, 2010, story about an unintended consequence of Massachusetts' pioneering health care reform law, Massachusetts legislators subsequently passed a new law aimed at fixing the issue.

7. Follow-up (if any). Have you run a correction or clarification on the report or has anyone come forward to challenge its accuracy? If so, please explain.

None.

8. Advice to other journalists planning a similar story or project.

As national health care reform moves forward, there is a gold mine of stories to be told about the consequences, intended or otherwise, from the regulations that are passed. Massachusetts has proved fertile territory for these stories. I would also advise journalists to be especially vigilant at following the money in their states' Medicaid office as these health policy changes progress because complexity in such programs can mask the inappropriate use of government funds, and FOIs are a great way to find out what's really happening.