Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cutting through red tape in health care reporting

Becca Aaronson of The Texas Tribune said the insurance exchange is like Orbitz for insurance.

By Laura Garcia

The Texas Tribune reporter Becca Aaronson said about 42 percent of Americans still don’t know the Affordable Care Act was passed into law.

Aaronson covers health care and develops data interactives for the nonprofit news media organization. She joined a panel of three media professionals to discuss covering health care issues with a dozen Region 8 conference-goers.

She said Joe Straus, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, has said openly, “We need to get our heads out of the sand.”

Because state funding was cut by two-thirds, covering women’s health is a really big thing for her right now.

Monica Navarro, who is an anchor, reporter and producer for Univision Channel 41, said  her focus is usually on health care issues within the Hispanic community. This is because much of that population is uninsured.

“Like she said nobody knows about the ACA,” Navarro said.

Don Finley, a health care and science writer of more than 25 years, said whenever change happens there’s always going to be people confused and crying.

“I’m not a reporter anymore but to me that’s what we do well at a local area,” he said. “There’s all kinds of issues like that that are more interesting to me than the politics.”

During a Q-and-A portion of the panel, a conference attendee asked how to find sources when covering broad health care issues.

Navarro said, “Well after 30 years, I have my contacts. They call me.”

But it took awhile to build those relationships, she said. Sometimes you have to knock on doors.

She cautioned that you have to be very careful where you get information. She said not to talk to anyone on hospital property unless it’s been cleared with the public information office. There are waivers for patients to sign because of privacy laws.

But across the street is okay.

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