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Charles Ornstein

Deputy Managing Editor

Photo of Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a deputy managing editor at ProPublica, overseeing the Local Reporting Network, which works with local news organizations to produce accountability journalism on issues of importance to their communities. From 2008 to 2017, he was a senior reporter covering health care and the pharmaceutical industry. He then worked as a senior editor.

Prior to joining ProPublica, he was a member of the metro investigative projects team at the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he and Tracy Weber were lead authors on a series on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a troubled hospital in South Los Angeles. The articles won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service.

In 2009, he and Weber worked on a series of stories that detailed serious failures in oversight by the California Board of Registered Nursing and nursing boards around the country. The work was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

He previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, where he covered health care on the business desk and worked in the Washington bureau. Ornstein is a past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and an adjunct journalism professor at Columbia University. Ornstein is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Patients Wait in Limbo as St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program Reviews Its Problems

“I sort of feel like we’ve been left in the dark,” says one patient’s wife, who learned from a reporter — and not the Houston hospital — about the program’s temporary suspension. An expert says it will likely take much longer than 14 days to fix.

St. Luke’s to Suspend Heart Transplants After Recent Deaths

The move comes two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported on pervasive problems in the historic heart program.

A Pioneering Heart Surgeon’s Secret History of Research Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Poor Outcomes

Over decades, Bud Frazier has played a leading role in the development of mechanical heart pumps and an artificial heart. Out of public view, he’s been accused of putting his quest to make history ahead of the needs of some patients.

Here’s How ProPublica Analyzed Bud Frazier’s Medicare Outcomes

Our analysis showed that Frazier, a heart surgery legend, had one of the highest one-year death rates in the nation for left ventricular assist device implantations in Medicare from 2010-2015.

A Death in Slow Motion

A heart transplant. A medical mishap. A drawn-out ending. All told on Facebook.

At St. Luke’s in Houston, Patients Suffer as a Renowned Heart Transplant Program Loses Its Luster

The hospital and its legendary surgeon Denton Cooley performed some of the world’s first heart transplants back in the 1960s. In recent years, though, it has had some of the worst heart transplant outcomes in the country.

Help Us Investigate Care at the Texas Medical Center

If you’re a patient, doctor, administrator, vendor or visitor, we’d like to hear from you about your experience at the largest medical complex in the world.

As Wait for New Heart Got Longer, Patient Grew Sicker

Baylor St. Luke’s in Houston was known for handling complex heart transplants. But when Travis Hogan was a patient there, he didn’t know that the program was undergoing a series of dramatic changes. He never got his heart.

Measuring the Toll of the Opioid Epidemic Is Tougher Than It Seems

One of our editors set out to create an ambitious list of data sources on the opioid epidemic. Much of what he found was out of date, and some data contradicted other data.

The Price They Pay

ProPublica and The New York Times have partnered to tell the stories of Americans living daily with the reality of high-cost drugs. There are millions of others just like them.

We’ve Updated Our Treatment Tracker

Our database now includes records from 2015. Look up your doctor and other providers in the Medicare Part B program.

When Buying Prescription Drugs, Some Pay More With Insurance Than Without It

As insurers ask consumers to pay a greater share of their drug costs, it may be cheaper to pay cash than use your insurance card. One expert estimates that consumers could be overpaying for as many as 1 in 10 prescriptions.

How to Save Money on Your Prescription Drugs

Online prescription sites may help you find cheaper prices for some drugs, sometimes without using your insurance.

Some U.S. Hospitals Don’t Put Americans First for Liver Transplants

At a time when there aren’t enough livers for ailing Americans, wealthy foreigners fly here for transplants.

VA Delays Key Agent Orange Decisions

Since March 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been weighing whether to expand Agent Orange benefits to Vietnam vets with bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, as well as other ailments. It keeps missing its own deadlines to act.

Pressure Mounts on Insurance Companies to Consider Their Role in Opioid Epidemic

Another lawmaker is asking insurers whether their policies have made it easier for patients to access cheaper, more addictive drugs over less addictive alternatives. Meanwhile, the insurance industry trade group pledged additional steps to combat inappropriate prescribing.

Senator Calls on Insurers to Improve Access to Non-Opioid Pain Treatments

The move follows a story by ProPublica and The New York Times detailing how insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers have made it easier to get opioid painkillers than less risky alternatives.

Attorneys General in 37 States Urge Insurance Industry to Do More to Curb Opioid Epidemic

They want insurers to re-examine coverage policies that, as ProPublica and The New York Times reported Sunday, may be driving patients toward addictive painkillers.

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