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Fellowships to enhance your career

Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance

The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance is a yearlong program allowing journalists to pursue a significant reporting project related to the U.S. health care system. The application deadline is Oct. 1.

For insights into how a fellowship can help you reach your creative and career goals, be sure to see this webcast. Panelists discuss how to make yourself stand out as an applicant. They also talk about how, if you're a freelancer, to line up the clients, the story ideas and the plans for doing a fellowship, all while maintaining your other freelance work.

$200,000 grant strengthens reporting fellowship

AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the educational arm of the Association of Health Care Journalists, has been awarded a grant of $200,000 to continue a fellowship program that helps journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system as a whole.

The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance were launched in 2010.

The program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation, allows experienced print, broadcast and online reporters to pursue significant reporting projects over a year’s time related to the U.S. health care system. 

New AHCJ board seated for 2014-15

Tony Leys and Charlotte Sutton

Charlotte Sutton, senior editor/health and politics for the Tampa Bay Times, and Tony Leys, a staff writer for the Des Moines Register, join four incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists' 2014-15 board of directors.

Incumbents starting a new two-year term include AHCJ Vice President Ivan Oransky, M.D., of MedPage Today in New York, AHCJ Secretary Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News in Washington, D.C., Scott Hensley of NPR in Washington, D.C., and Irene Wielawski, an independent journalist in Pound Ridge, N.Y.

AHCJ names 2014-15 Regional Health Journalism Fellows

The Association of Health Care Journalists has named the 2014-15 class of the Regional Health Journalism Fellowship, an annual fellowship program for reporters and editors across the United States.

The program, which changes regions each year, will focus this year on journalists from the South Central United States, namely Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. The program begins in the next month. The first class of fellows came from the northern Midwest and Plains. The second class of fellows came from the Southeast, and the most recent class of fellows came from the West Coast.

Read more about the newest fellowship class.

Use data to cover the Affordable Care Act

Katherine HempsteadThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has six databases on its "Reform by the Numbers" website that can be useful for reporters covering health care. In an exclusive briefing at an AHCJ New York chapter meeting in June 2014, the Foundation's Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., discussed the highlights of the databases.

The databases can answer many questions, such as whether consumers are having trouble paying their sky-high deductibles or whether waiting lines are growing at doctors’ offices. Want to know how your state exchange differs from others? This data can help. Hempstead also offers ideas for stories that can be mined from the data no matter your technical abilities.

Joseph Burns
Joseph Burns

Covering premium rate increases for 2015?
Check out these resources first

As the nation’s health insurers file rate requests with state insurance departments, the news about health insurance premium increases is coming out almost daily now. The deadline for submitting rate requests on the marketplaces was June 27.

Premium rate review is an important story, but it’s a complex story. Here's some background on the process of premium rate review, as well as tools, resources and tips for doing the most nuanced and accurate reporting on this important topic.

Reporting on the ACA in rural Kentucky

Laura Unger
Laura Ungar

Kentucky received national attention when it became the only Southern state to fully embrace the Affordable Care Act by creating its own health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands more residents.

But, in impoverished rural areas that stood to gain the most from the greater access to care that the ACA promised, many residents remained fiercely opposed to the law and the president who pushed it.

Against this backdrop, a team from USA Today and The Courier-Journal in Louisville decided to launch an in-depth examination of how the law is beginning to play out in Appalachian Kentucky. Courier-Journal medical writer Laura Ungar shares how they did it. 

Using data to expose the risks of home births


Markian Hawryluk, a health reporter with The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin, describes how he took advantage of new data collected by the state of Oregon to shape an article that revealed high mortality rates for home births in his state.

While beauticians and tattoo artists are regulated in the state, midwife certification is voluntary in Oregon, and even then, the hurdles for certification are rather minimal. But with midwives largely operating outside of the established health care system, there was little more than anecdotal evidence about the safety of home births to go on. That changed last year.

"If home birth were a drug," he wrote, "it would be taken off the market."

Explaining the connections between poverty, health

Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan

It didn’t sit right with Olga Khazan, an associate editor at The Atlantic, seeing so many people focus on individual behavior as the root cause of public health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. She had come across too many studies revealing how health is shaped by external factors such as educational opportunity, the physical environment and social quality of neighborhoods, and the corrosive effects of prolonged exposure to stressful living conditions.

In “How Being Poor Makes You Sick,” Khazan came up with an appealing lede to draw readers into a deeply reported story about the complicated, nuanced realities of the social determinants of health. And she found an efficient, compact way to frame the story to make it highly readable.

Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2014

Rural Health Journalism Workshop

Dozens of journalists gathered in Portland Ore.,   for AHCJ’s seventh Rural Health Journalism Workshop. See tweets from the workshop at #ruralhealth14. Panels included:
• Explore the rural health landscape
• Triumphs, regulation challenges of telemedicine
• The aging of rural physicians and the next generation of care
• Rural health leadership in a changing countryside
• How the ACA impacts rural health care
• The cost of poor oral health

Attendees got a better understanding of what’s happening – or will be happening – in rural regions, and are returning to work with dozens of story ideas. 

Medicare payments data by state

The government release of information about Medicare payments to health professionals, a total of $77 billion in the single year of 2012, means unprecedented access to details of how public funds are spent. For 35 years, the data have been off limits to the public. The release has already generated stories by health journalists, with possibilities for more stories in the weeks and months ahead. To help with these stories, AHCJ has broken down the data by state in spreadsheet format for members to download.

Webcast: Finding fresh stories in newly released Medicare data

Craft a memorable pitch and get that assignment

AHCJ webcast

How can a writer, who's new to a publication, craft such an impressive pitch, that even if the story doesn't sell, keeps the door wide open for next time?

In this webcast, "Beyond the basics of pitching: Becoming that dream writer," a panel of top editors talk about pitches they loved and could not walk away from. 

Make your pitch communicate the story you want to tell, and impress editors in the process. 

Download CMS data on hospital costs

AHCJ offers federal government data showing what hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure. The 2011 data includes bills submitted by 3,300 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed treatments. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs.

Reporting on costs requires interview strategy, resources

The cost of medicines, devices, tests and treatment is such an important element of health reporting that it is included in AHCJ's Statement of Principles: "Strive to include information about cost and insurance coverage in any reporting of new ideas in medicine."

To that end, Brenda Goodman, AHCJ's topic leader on covering medical studies, and Michael Schroeder, who covers health for Angie's List Magazine, have contributed tip sheets to help reporters get that vital information. Goodman focuses on several resources where you might find pricing information, while Schroeder shares his strategy and the specific questions he asks sources about costs.

Association of Health Care Journalists Covering Health: An AHCJ blog

Exploring the geography of violent death
Measured by rates of violent death, the most dangerous counties in the United States have rates that are more than 10 times higher than the safest ...

Going deep on hospital closures and their human impact
Pittsburgh’s dominant health system closed a hospital in the economically depressed town of Braddock four years ago and soon after opened a new ...

ACA rules force health insurers to increase spending on care delivery
A new report on how health insurers are complying with the medical loss ratio rules shows insurers spent more on care delivery and less on profit and ...

Welcome to AHCJ’s newest members
Please welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ. All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce ...

Reporting team scrutinizes Medicare Advantage
The Center for Public Integrity’s series unearthing potential fraud and waste under the Medicare Advantage program had little help — and ...


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