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Saturday, October 21, 2017
Charles Ornstein
letter-opioids-3x2

Pressure Mounts On Insurance Companies To Consider Their Role In Opioid Epidemic

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote to the companies after an article by ProPublica and The New York Times found that insurance companies sometimes favor cheaper, more addictive opioids over less addictive, but more expensive, alternatives.

October 20, 2017
Painkillers

Attorneys General In 37 States Urge Insurance Industry To Do More To Curb Opioid Epidemic

Attorneys general for 37 states sent a letter Monday to the health insurance industry’s main trade group, urging its members to reconsider coverage policies that may be fueling the opioid crisis. The letter is part of an ongoing investigation by the state officials into the causes of the opioid epidemic and the parties that are most responsible. The group is also focusing on the marketing and sales practices of drug makers and the role of drug distributors.

September 19, 2017
Senate

Accreditors Can Keep Their Hospital Inspection Reports Secret, Feds Decide

Reversing course, federal health officials withdrew a proposal that would have required private accrediting organizations to publicly release reports of problems they found in health care facilities. Accreditors and hospitals had panned the idea; consumer advocates and business groups supported it.

August 4, 2017
Painkillers

Report: ‘Extreme’ Use Of Painkillers And Doctor Shopping Plague Medicare

In Washington, D.C., a Medicare beneficiary filled prescriptions for 2,330 pills of oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine in a single month last year — written by just one of the 42 health providers who prescribed the person such drugs. In Illinois, a different Medicare enrollee received 73 prescriptions for opioid drugs from 11 prescribers and filled them at 20 different pharmacies. He sometimes filled prescriptions at multiple pharmacies on the same day.

July 14, 2017

The Medicaid Threat That Isn’t Getting Much Attention

No corner of the health care system would be harder hit than Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, if Republican leaders in Congress round up the votes to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. GOP lawmakers have proposed winding down the Medicaid expansion that added 17 million people in 31 states and the District of Columbia under the ACA, and eventually capping the program’s spending per capita.

July 7, 2017
Hospital bed mover

Medicare Halts Release Of Much-Anticipated Data

In the past few years, many seniors and disabled people have eschewed traditional Medicare coverage to enroll in privately run health plans paid for by Medicare, which often come with lower out-of-pocket costs and some enhanced benefits. These so-called Medicare Advantage plans now enroll more than a third of the 58 million beneficiaries in the Medicare program, a share that grows by the month.

June 30, 2017

Veterans Affairs Official Downplays Agent Orange Risks, Questions Critics

“From my point of view, I will do anything to help veterans, any legitimate veteran, and I’ve done it plenty of times,” he told the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, a group that advises the VA. “Unfortunately when it comes to this Agent Orange, we have to have a lot of denials.”

June 12, 2017
Trump Twitter

Trump’s Not The Only One Blocking Constituents On Twitter

As elected officials increasingly turn to social media to communicate with constituents, some are blocking those who disagree with them. Some say it violates the First Amendment. Legislators say it’s about promoting a “healthy, civil dialogue.” Expect court battles ahead.

June 8, 2017
GOP health bill

Three Strategies To Defend GOP Health Bill: Euphemisms, False Statements And Deleted Comments

Earlier this month, a day after the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, Ashleigh Morley visited her congressman’s Facebook page to voice her dismay.

May 26, 2017

With Drug Reps Kept At Bay, Doctors Prescribe More Judiciously

When teaching hospitals put pharmaceutical sales representatives on a shorter leash, their doctors tended to order fewer promoted brand-name drugs and used more generic versions instead, a study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows.

May 3, 2017

Secret Hospital Inspections May Become Public At Last

The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them.

April 19, 2017

On Health Reform, Democrats And Republicans Don’t Speak The Same Language

Though Republicans control both houses of Congress, many have stayed silent, at least on their websites. Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, put out a press release last week about a study of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, but nothing on health care. (You can see all of the statements in ProPublica’s Represent news app, which tracks votes and statements by members of Congress.)

Among members of the House, where the action is now focused, about 46 percent of Republicans have issued statements about health care reform from the start of the Trump administration to this week. Among Democrats, 67 percent.

March 23, 2017
Democrats

We Fact-Checked Lawmakers’ Letters To Constituents On Health Care

As the debate to repeal the law heats up in Congress, constituents are flooding their representatives with notes of support or concern, and the lawmakers are responding, sometimes with form letters that are misleading. A review of more than 200 such letters by ProPublica and its partners at Kaiser Health News, Stat and Vox, found dozens of errors and mischaracterizations about the ACA and its proposed replacement. The legislators have cited wrong statistics, conflated health care terms and made statements that don’t stand up to verification.

March 22, 2017

Fact-Checking Elected Officials On The Affordable Care Act Repeal

ProPublica is working with other news organizations to collect and analyze letters and emails from elected officials to constituents on the Affordable Care Act, beginning with a misleading missive by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

March 10, 2017
Doctor, Muslim Ban

Hours After Landing In New York, Doctor Forced To Leave U.S. By Trump’s Order

Abushamma was forced to make a choice by Customs and Border Protection agents: She could leave the country voluntarily and withdraw her visa — or she could be forcibly deported, which would have prevented her from coming back to the U.S. for at least five years. The latter also would have resulted in a permanent black mark on her immigration record.

January 30, 2017
Obamacare sign up explodes after Trump elected

Even After Open Enrollment, Activity Remains Unexpectedly High On Federal Health Insurance Exchange

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica This story was co-published with NPR’s “Shots” blog. For months, journalists and politicians fixated on the number of people signing up for health insurance through the federal exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act. It turned out that more than 5 million people signed up using HealthCare.gov by April […]

July 24, 2014

Medicare Overpays Billions For Office Visits, Patient Evaluations

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. Medicare spent $6.7 billion too much for office visits and other patient evaluations in 2010, according to a new report from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But in its reply to the findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs Medicare, said […]

May 29, 2014
Obamacare sign up explodes after Trump elected

Medicaid Programs Drowning In Backlog

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. Last week, federal health officials celebrated two milestones related to the Affordable Care Act. The first, which got considerable attention, was that more than 7 million people selected private health plans in state and federal health insurance exchanges. The second, which got less attention, was that some 3 million additional enrollees […]

April 9, 2014

Judging Obamacare: How Do We Know If It’s A Success Or Failure?

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. One day very soon, the focus on Obamacare will turn from signing up new enrollees to quantifying the law’s success — or failure. The six-month open enrollment period, during which consumers sign up for health plans under the Affordable Care Act, is supposed to end today. But the U.S. Department of […]

March 31, 2014

Epic Fail: Where Four State Health Exchanges Went Wrong

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. Much has been written (and will continue to be written) about the spectacular failure of health insurance exchanges in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oregon and Maryland — all blue states that support the Affordable Care Act. All were woefully unprepared for their Oct. 1 launch, and unlike HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace, they are […]

February 6, 2014
Obamacare, Republicans

Obamacare: A Midterm Report Card

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. The first half of the Obamacare open enrollment period is over, and yesterday, federal health officials announced signup figures from the first three months. After a disastrous start, HealthCare.gov (which handles enrollment for 36 states) began functioning properly. It, along with state-run insurance exchanges, netted more than 2.1 million signups between […]

January 14, 2014

Deadline? What Deadline? The Obamacare Signup Dates Keep Moving

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. You aren’t alone if you’re confused about the deadline to sign up for coverage on the health insurance marketplaces. The deadline is — and has been — in flux. When the process began in October, consumers using HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace for 36 states, had until Dec. 15 to pick a […]

December 19, 2013

Turning the Corner? In California, At Least, Obamacare Signups Zoom

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. The statistics released yesterday from Covered California could bode well for health insurance exchanges that have their act together. Although the California exchange enrolled 109,000 in October and November combined, the tally from the first seven days in December — 49,708 — is nearly three times the pace from a month earlier. Even […]

December 13, 2013

‘Please Wait’: New-And-Improved HealthCare.gov Has Same Old Problems

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. After a glowing news conference yesterday citing “night and day” progress on HealthCare.gov, I decided to log in this morning and take the website for a test drive, as I’m sure many others are doing. Early reports had been promising. What I found was hardly encouraging — long delays on loading […]

December 2, 2013

Q&A: How California’s Insurance Enrollments Beat Healthcare.gov

by Charles Ornstein, ProPublica. There’s good news flowing from the Golden State — and Peter Lee has a lot to do with it. Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, signed up more people in October than Healthcare.gov, the federal website handling enrollment for 36 states. During that month, 30,830 people enrolled in Covered California. By comparison, in […]

November 20, 2013