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Health Care

Series

Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Crisis

Prominent Cancer Center Faces Reckoning Over Industry Ties

A Sick System

Repeat Attacks After Pleading Insanity

Trauma After Tragedy

PTSD in First Responders

Stuck Kids

Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals

Health Insurance Hustle

The Confounding Way We Pay for Care

Heart Failure

The Decline of a Historic Transplant Program

Lost Mothers

Maternal Care and Preventable Deaths

Wasted Medicine

Squandered Health Care Dollars

Policing Patient Privacy

Patient Privacy and Medical Care

Examining Medicare

A Closer Look at Medicare Part B

Obamacare and You

The Rollout of the Affordable Care Act

Overdose

Acetaminophen and Accidental Overdoses

Patient Safety

Exploring Quality of Care in the U.S.

Dialysis

High Costs and Hidden Perils of a Treatment Guaranteed to All

Dollars for Doctors

How Industry Money Reaches Physicians

Omniscan

Specter of MRI Disease Haunts General Electric

When Caregivers Harm

America’s Unwatched Nurses

Stories

Sloan Kettering Cancer Researchers Correct the Record by Revealing Company Ties

The hospital’s chief medical officer resigned last month after failing to disclose company ties in medical journals. Now, Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers, including chief executive Dr. Craig B. Thompson, are updating their own conflict-of-interest disclosures.

“They’ve Got to Execute You”: St. Luke’s Doctor Faces Discipline After Raising Patient Care Concerns

A Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center physician alleges in a lawsuit that hospital officials retaliated against him for expressing concerns about ICU care. The Houston hospital has denied the allegation in court filings.

In Montana, a Tough Negotiator Proved Employers Don’t Have to Pay So Much for Health Care

With its employee health plan in financial crisis, Montana hired a former insurance insider who pushed back against industry players with vested interests in keeping costs high. She proved, essentially, that bargaining down health care prices works.

Cancer Center’s Board Chairman Faults Top Doctor, Saying He “Crossed Lines”

The executive told Memorial Sloan Kettering staff that the hospital did not do enough to limit the industry conflicts of its chief medical officer, who has resigned.

Facing Crisis, Sloan Kettering Tells Exec to Hand Over Profits From Biotech

A vice president at Memorial Sloan Kettering received a stake of nearly $1.4 million in a biotech company for representing the hospital on its board. He will give back his stake as the cancer center grapples with questions about conflicts of interest.

The Child Abuse Contrarian

Michael Holick, a renowned scientist turned expert witness, relies on his own controversial theory to help alleged abusers avoid prison and regain custody of the babies they were accused of harming.

Cancer Center Switches Focus on Fundraising as Problems Mount

The change highlights the challenges facing Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the nation’s most prestigious cancer centers, amid a widening crisis.

Trump Administration Proposes Weakening Rules Governing Organ Transplant Centers

The revised rules, proposed this week as part of the agency’s efforts to reduce “burdensome” federal regulations, would no longer penalize hospitals if too many of their patients die following transplants. St. Luke’s in Houston recently lost its Medicare funding for heart transplants for that very reason.

Sloan Kettering’s Cozy Deal With Start-Up Ignites a New Uproar

A for-profit venture with exclusive rights to use the cancer center’s vast archive of tissue slides has generated concerns among pathologists at the hospital, as well as experts in nonprofit law and corporate governance.

Black Patients Miss Out On Promising Cancer Drugs

A ProPublica analysis found that black people and Native Americans are under-represented in clinical trials of new drugs, even when the treatment is aimed at a type of cancer that disproportionately affects them.

A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Clinical Trials

If you’re considering whether to enroll in a trial of an experimental drug, here’s what you need to know.

How We Compared Clinical Trial and Cancer Incidence Data

An in-depth look at newly approved cancer drugs, who participates in their clinical trials and who is affected by those cancers.

Top Official at Memorial Sloan Kettering Resigns After Failing to Disclose Industry Ties

Dr. José Baselga, the hospital’s chief medical officer, stepped down days after a report by ProPublica and the New York Times that he failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from the health care and drug industry in research articles.

Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Orders Staff to “Do a Better Job” of Disclosing Industry Ties

The move comes after ProPublica and The New York Times reported that one of its top executives failed to report payments from drug and health care companies in dozens of medical journal articles.

Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals

A senior official at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has received millions of dollars in payments from companies that are involved in medical research. His omissions expose how weakly conflict-of-interest rules are enforced by journals.

Heart Surgery “Legend” a Factor in Transplant Deaths, a St. Luke’s Colleague Told Inspector

Notes released by a federal agency indicate that one of the hospital’s top heart transplant doctors spoke about “a retiring surgeon” who “wouldn’t stop performing transplants” in explaining a rash of patient deaths. Only Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier matches that description.

Prominent Houston Judge Quits St. Luke’s Board After Heart Transplant Troubles Revealed

Carolyn Dineen King, a senior U.S. Circuit Court judge, resigned from the St. Luke’s board on May 30, two weeks after ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle detailed deaths and complications in the famed heart program.

St. Luke’s Heart Transplant Program to Lose Medicare Funding Today

The action is a stunning blow for a historic program that has performed among the most heart transplants in the nation.

Trusted Health Sites Spread Myths About a Deadly Pregnancy Complication

From the Mayo Clinic to Harvard, sources don't always get the facts right about preeclampsia. Reached by ProPublica, some are making needed corrections.

Famed Houston Surgeon Updates Conflict-of-Interest Disclosures

ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle reported in May that Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier had often failed to disclose his payments from medical device makers in articles he authored. Since then, he’s amended his disclosures for three pieces in the New England Journal of Medicine.

For Most Common Heart Surgery, St. Luke’s Has Been Among the Nation’s Worst

A leading group of surgeons gave the Houston hospital poor marks for heart bypasses. Hospital officials acknowledge the low rating, but say outcomes have improved in the past year.

Steve Cohen Is Spending Millions to Help Veterans. Why Are People Angry?

The hedge fund billionaire’s efforts to assist veterans with PTSD have thrust him into the fight over privatizing the VA and led some people to question his motives.

Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates

Without any public scrutiny, insurers and data brokers are predicting your health costs based on data about things like race, marital status, how much TV you watch, whether you pay your bills on time or even buy plus-size clothing.

Prominent Texas Surgeon Sues ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle

Bud Frazier, a pioneer in the development of artificial hearts, filed a libel suit alleging he was “falsely” portrayed in two articles exploring alleged lapses in research and ethical practices.

He Went In for a Heart Transplant. He Suffered Severe Brain Damage. Now His Family Is Suing St. Luke’s.

After a heart transplant in August 2016, Ernest “Chris” Keys can’t talk or walk. The Houston hospital is under pressure for the quality of its once-renowned heart program.

Documents Raise New Concerns About Lithium Study on Children

Prominent University of Illinois at Chicago psychiatrist enrolled her young sons as healthy control subjects in troubled study.

New Jersey to Suspend Prominent Psychologist for Failing to Protect Patient Privacy

The state began investigating Barry Helfmann after a 2015 article by ProPublica and the New York Times about debt collection lawsuits against his patients that included details of their mental health diagnoses and treatments.

Supporters of a Famed Houston Surgeon Have Alleged Inaccuracies in Our Investigation. Here’s Our Response

Several dozen people have authored letters defending Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier and criticizing an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle. We stand behind our story.

U.S. Senate Committee Proposes $50 Million to Prevent Mothers Dying in Childbirth

After years of Congressional inaction, legislators in both parties want to back efforts by states and hospitals to reduce the U.S. maternal mortality rate, the highest in the developed world.

Opioid Makers, Blamed for Overdose Epidemic, Cut Back on Marketing Payments to Doctors

As ProPublica updates Dollars for Docs, we found that drugmakers spent less money to market opioids to doctors in 2016 than in prior years. Studies have shown that payments to doctors by opioid makers are linked to more prescribing of the drugs.

We’ve Added 2016 Data to Dollars for Docs

Is your doctor taking money from drug or device companies? Check with our newly updated app.

FDA Repays Industry by Rushing Risky Drugs to Market

As pharma companies underwrite three-fourths of the FDA’s budget for scientific reviews, the agency is increasingly fast-tracking expensive drugs with significant side effects and unproven health benefits.

Federal Judge to Consider Independent Monitor for Illinois Child Welfare Agency

State officials have failed to deal with children stuck in psychiatric hospitals.

After Two-Week Review, St. Luke’s in Houston Reopens Its Heart Transplant Program

Officials said they found no “systemic issues” in the care of two patients who died last month, but that they are making staffing and policy changes to improve the program.

Illinois Lawmakers Demand Explanation on Children Stuck in Psychiatric Hospitals

A call for state welfare officials to appear at a public hearing follows our ProPublica Illinois investigation.

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.

Where Is “Home” for Children in State Custody?

Many of us have distinct memories of our own childhood homes. That’s not the case for hundreds of children trapped in Illinois psychiatric hospitals.

Hundreds of Illinois Children Languish in Psychiatric Hospitals After They’re Cleared For Release

The Department of Children and Family Services struggles to find appropriate homes for young people with mental illness.

Every Day, a Child is Held Beyond Medical Necessity in Illinois

Hundreds of children and teens in state care are held each year in psychiatric hospitals for weeks or months at a time — even though they have been cleared to leave.

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.

Video: How More Midwives May Mean Healthier Mothers

When it comes to midwife use, the U.S. falls behind other affluent countries. A deeper look at history explains why.

Why Your Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills

Patients may think their insurers are fighting on their behalf for the best prices. But saving patients money is often not their top priority. Just ask Michael Frank.

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.

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.

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.

University of Illinois at Chicago Officials Defend Handling of Researcher’s Misconduct

Top officials say reviews found no oversight problems, though documents undercut that claim.

How We Found Sources for Our Research Misconduct Story — And How You Can Help Us Find More

Privacy rules were an obstacle to finding participants in Dr. Mani Pavuluri’s lithium studies, but we got around them.

The $3 Million Research Breakdown

How a star psychiatrist at the University of Illinois at Chicago violated protocols and put children at risk.

Sacklers Who Disavow OxyContin May Have Benefited From It

A little-known court document sheds light on the family feud over the multibillion-dollar painkiller’s association with the opioid crisis.

Here’s One Issue Blue and Red States Agree On: Preventing Deaths of Expectant and New Mothers

From Indiana to Oregon, lawmakers are passing bills to increase scrutiny of maternal deaths. Often, they’re citing our “Lost Mothers” series.

How Health and Education Journalists Can Turn Privacy Laws to Their Advantage

Government records officers frequently cite privacy restrictions to deny data requests. Here are some tips on how to overcome or sidestep these barriers.

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.

A Larger Role for Midwives Could Improve Deficient U.S. Care for Mothers and Babies

According to a new study, states that give midwives a greater role in patient care achieve better results on key measures of maternal and neonatal health.

Unnecessary Medical Care Is More Common Than You Think

A study in Washington state found that in a single year more than 600,000 patients underwent treatment they didn’t need, at an estimated cost of $282 million. “Do no harm” should include the cost of care, too, the report author says.

Want to Lower Health Care Costs? Stop Wasting Our Money.

This year ProPublica documented the many ways waste is baked into our health care system, from destroying perfectly good medication to junking brand new supplies. Eliminating the waste could insure millions of Americans.

How Hospitals Are Failing Black Mothers

A ProPublica analysis shows that women who deliver at hospitals that disproportionately serve black mothers are at a higher risk of harm.

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.

How We Measured Birth Complications

Here’s the methodology for our analysis of birth complication rates.

A Prescription for Reducing Wasted Health Care Spending

A ProPublica series has illustrated the many ways the U.S. health care system leaks money. Health care leaders and policymakers suggest ways to plug the holes.

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.

Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Not education. Not income. Not even being an expert on racial disparities in health care.

More States Hatch Plans to Recycle Drugs Being Wasted in Nursing Homes

After reading ProPublica’s story, lawmakers in Florida and New Hampshire say they plan to follow the example of an Iowa nonprofit that redistributes leftover medications to needy patients.

The Breakthrough: A Reporter Goes to Ground Zero for Today’s American HIV Epidemic

Linda Villarosa had spent decades covering the spread of AIDS. She thought she was done. Then, she visited Jackson, Mississippi.

A Hospital Charged $1,877 to Pierce a 5-Year-Old’s Ears. This Is Why Health Care Costs So Much.

An epidemic of unnecessary treatment is wasting billions of health care dollars a year. Patients and taxpayers are paying for it.

Seven Ways Patients Can Protect Themselves From Outrageous Medical Bills

Experts in reducing charges for medical services say patients need to push for detailed answers up front about the true costs of their care.

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.

New Jersey Bill Would Create Commission Empowered to Probe Deaths Related to Pregnancy and Childbirth

Spurred by ProPublica and NPR’s reporting, New Jersey lawmakers are moving to tighten requirements to report maternal deaths, investigate their causes and identify ways to prevent them.

New York City Launches Committee to Review Maternal Deaths

Amid intensifying concerns about deaths and near-deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, New York City will review cases in depth to protect mothers and improve data collection.

Senators Introduce Bill to Reduce ‘Colossal and Completely Preventable Waste’

The senators cited a ProPublica story that found that drug companies have been making patients pay for oversized eyedrops and more liquid cancer medications than they need.

How Many American Women Die From Causes Related to Pregnancy or Childbirth? No One Knows.

Data collection on maternal deaths is so flawed and under-funded that the federal government no longer even publishes an official death rate.

The Breakthrough: Curiosity Drove Her to Call 1,000 People

BuzzFeed’s Rosalind Adams set out to learn why America’s largest psychiatric hospital chain was under investigation. Source by source, she built a case that Universal Health Services was locking up people for profit.

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.

Drug Companies Make Eyedrops Too Big — And You Pay for the Waste

The makers of cancer drugs also make vials with too much medication for many patients. The excess drugs are tossed in the trash — another reason health care costs are so high.

State Audit Slams New York’s Oversight of Nurses

Echoing the findings of a 2016 ProPublica investigation, New York’s comptroller says the state does not investigate complaints swiftly and lets nurses with criminal records retain their licenses.

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.

Amid Opioid Crisis, Insurers Restrict Pricey, Less Addictive Painkillers

Drug companies and doctors have been accused of fueling the opioid crisis, but some question whether insurers have played a role, too.

Why Are Drug Prices So High? We’re Curious, Too.

The New York Times and ProPublica have teamed up to investigate who is to blame for skyrocketing drug prices — and have turned up some surprising answers.

Why Giving Birth Is Safer in Britain Than in the U.S.

The U.S. and the U.K. used to have the same rate of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Now, Britain’s is almost three times lower. Here’s what they’re doing right.

Risky, Overused Medications Prescribed Far Less Often in the Aloha State

Medicare patients in Hawaii take fewer opioid painkillers and fewer antibiotics, on average, than those in any other state. Physicians and health policy experts cite demographics and healthier lifestyles as possible reasons why.

We’ve Updated Prescriber Checkup

Medicare’s popular prescription-drug program serves more than 42 million people and pays for more than one of every four prescriptions written nationwide. Use this tool to find and compare doctors and other providers in Part D in 2015.

Many Nurses Lack Knowledge of Health Risks for New Mothers, Study Finds

A nationwide survey shows that postpartum nurses often fail to warn mothers about potentially life-threatening complications, mainly because they need more education themselves.

Generic Drug Prices Are Declining, But Many Consumers Aren’t Benefiting

Outcry has been building over the rising cost of brand-name medications, but the price of generic drugs has been moving in the opposite direction. The stock prices of generic manufacturers have tumbled, but many consumers aren’t paying less at the pharmacy counter.

Take the Generic Drug, Patients Are Told — Unless Insurers Say No

Faced with competition, some pharmaceutical companies are cutting deals with insurance companies to favor their brand-name products over cheaper generics. Insurers pay less, but sometimes consumers pay more.

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.

‘If You Hemorrhage, Don’t Clean Up’: Advice From Mothers Who Almost Died

We’ve heard from 3,100 women who survived life-threatening complications of pregnancy or childbirth. They told us what they wish they had known — and what they would say to other new and expectant mothers.

The Breakthrough: Reporting on Life and Death in the Delivery Room

ProPublica reporter Nina Martin and her team used social media and old-fashioned shoe leather to show how the U.S. has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world.

McCain’s Brain Cancer Draws Renewed Attention to Possible Agent Orange Connection

For years, Vietnam vets and their widows have been pushing the VA to extend benefits to those exposed to the toxic herbicide and later stricken with glioblastoma. The VA has said no, but advocates hope the agency will now revisit the issue.

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates

Hospitals and pharmacies are required to toss expired drugs, no matter how expensive or vital. Meanwhile the FDA has long known that many remain safe and potent for years longer.

Lost Mothers

An estimated 700 to 900 women in the U.S. died from pregnancy-related causes in 2016. We have identified 120 of them so far.

‘Extreme’ Use of Painkillers and Doctor Shopping Plague Medicare, New Report Says

Some Medicare beneficiaries are being prescribed opioids by 10 or more doctors, or are filling prescriptions for more than 1,000 pills a month. Hundreds of doctors appear to be prescribing indiscriminately, says the inspector general of Health and Human Services.

Drugmakers’ Money-Back Guarantees: an Answer to Rising Prices or a ‘Carnival Game’

Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly agreeing to refund money if patients don't respond to medications as expected. The Trump administration is intrigued, but critics say the deals are unlikely to reduce consumers’ bills.

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