Lauren Weber Profile picture
Midwest Correspondent for @KHNews. Former @HuffPost reporter. @Georgetown alum. STL @Cardinals fan. The HP stands for health policy. LaurenW@kff.org
Ross Grayson, MPH, CIH Profile picture 1 added to My Authors
8 Oct
IMPACT: Five New York state and local government agencies agreed to fix covid-19 vaccine websites to make them accessible for blind users following a @TheJusticeDept investigation spurred by our @KHNews story

W/ the relentless @hannah_recht

Our update: khn.org/news/article/n…
As Bryan Bashin told me amid the vaccine race of the winter, he had appointments slip away twice in the same day while he battled inaccessible websites.

"It’s an awful bit of discrimination, one as stinging as anything I’ve experienced,” Bashin, who is blind, said.
.@AccessBoard @sdpavithran said he knew @thejusticedept had investigations in progress in other states

@AndyDRC , a member of the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, said their report will likely call for an outside evaluation of access issues in the covid response
Read 6 tweets
26 Mar
Kyunghee Lee noticed her doctor's office had moved up a floor when she went to get her usual arthritis shots.

It was the same doctor, same shots, same time.

But it cost 10 times more.

Welcome to the "facility fee."

@KHNews @npratc #BilloftheMonth npr.org/sections/healt…
The increasingly controversial charge — basically a room rental fee — comes without warning

“It’s the same physician office it was, operating in exactly the same way, doing exactly the same services — but the hospital chooses to attach a facility fee to it” @TrishRiley207 said
Facility fees are one reason hospital prices are rising faster than physician prices.

There is some state legislation to combat the rising phenomenon, but it’s difficult to fight powerful hospital lobbyists in a pandemic political climate.
Read 6 tweets
26 Mar
Missourians have driven hours to find vaccines in rural counties. Doses are still slowly being rolled out in a federal long-term care program. Black residents are getting left behind.

Here's what went wrong in Missouri's vaccine rollout.
#moleg @KHNews

khn.org/news/article/m…
If Missouri were on par with the national rate of vaccinations, that would be roughly equivalent to more than 162,000 additional people vaccinated, or almost the entire population of the city of Springfield.

Instead, MO is in the bottom of states for its rocky rollout.
The former director of the St. Louis health department put it simply:

“You get what we pay for."

Our 2020 @AP @KHNews #UnderfundedUnderThreat investigation found that Missouri public health staffing at the state level had fallen 8% from 2010 to 2019, a loss of 106 employees.
Read 15 tweets
24 Mar
Dr. Deborah Birx has joined an air-cleaning company that built its business, in part, on technology that is now banned in California due to health hazards.

At stake? Some of the $193 billion in federal funding to schools.

From @By_CJewett and me:

khn.org/news/article/f…
The company’s own studies show that, in its effort to create the “healthiest indoor environments in North America,” it leveraged something less impressive: the disinfecting power of ozone — a molecule considered hazardous and linked to the onset and worsening of asthma.
In an interview with @KHNews , CEO Joe Urso acknowledged that ActivePure's air cleaners that emit ozone account for 5% of sales, even though its marketing repeatedly claims “no chemicals or ozone.”

"It is very confusing,” he said.
Read 11 tweets
25 Feb
INVESTIGATION: Covid vaccination registration websites at the federal, state and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for lifesaving vaccine.

Even @CDCgov 's embattled VAMS system is inaccessible.

khn.org/news/article/c…
As @hannah_recht and I found:

🚨 In at least 7 states, blind residents were unable to register for the vaccine without help
🚨 94 covid info and vaccine pages from the states had accessibility issues @webaim found
🚨 Phone alternatives were not available or had too long of lines
When blind people use the internet, they have software called screen readers read the text aloud to them.

If websites are not programmed properly, the software cannot read them aloud -- leaving blind people unable to register for #COVID19 vaccines.
Read 13 tweets
16 Jan
🚨🚨🚨 Black Americans are receiving covid vaccinations at dramatically lower rates than white Americans, according to our new @KHNews data analysis on the rollout

“We are missing the boat on equity” @MarcusPlescia @ASTHO said

From @hannah_recht and me: nbcnews.com/health/health-…
If the rollout were reaching people of all races equally, the shares of people vaccinated whose race is known should loosely align with the demographics of health care workers.

But in every state, Black Americans were significantly underrepresented among people vaccinated
Meanwhile, Black, Hispanic and Native Americans are dying from Covid at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, according to @CDCgov .

And Black and Asian health care workers are more likely to contract Covid and to die from it than white workers.
Read 12 tweets
15 Jan
🚨 Only 1/4 of the doses allocated to the CVS/Walgreens partnership to vaccinate nursing home residents have been administered.

Mississippi's state public health officer @TCBPubHealth says it's a "fiasco."

@RachelHBluth and me w/ @rachanadixit @KHNews cnn.com/2021/01/15/hea…
Scheduling, paperwork, staffing -- all of it is slowing down the latest privatization of the federal #COVID19 response for the nation's most vulnerable.

“There should never be an excuse about people not getting vaccinated. There’s no excuse for delays," @wassdoc said.
In Illionois, about 12,000 of the state’s roughly 55,000 nursing home residents have received their first dose.

West Virginia has finished its first round after ditching the CVS/Walgreens partnership altogether.
Read 4 tweets
15 Dec 20
1 in 8 Americans lives in a community that lost a local public health leader, our @AP @KHNews investigation found

Lawmakers in 24 states are crafting legislation to strip public health powers

This is U.S. pandemic public health #UnderfundedUnderThreat

apnews.com/article/pandem…
181 state and local public health leaders had resigned, retired or been fired since April.

It's the largest exodus of public health leaders in American history, @annabarryjester @hannah_recht @MRSmithAP and I found in our latest #UnderfundedUnderThreat investigation. 181 state and local public health department leaders have re
Many of the public health officials left due to political blowback or pandemic pressure.

Some departed to take higher profile positions, or due to health concerns.

Others were fired for poor performance.

Dozens retired.
Read 9 tweets
1 Jul 20
The U.S. has starved state and local public health departments of funding for decades, leaving the country ill-equipped for #COVID19, our @KHNews @AP investigation found.

This is America's public health system in a pandemic.

#UnderfundedUnderThreat

khn.org/news/us-public…
Workers are paid so little, some qualify for Medicaid. They track the coronavirus on paper records shared via fax.

Working seven-day weeks for months on end, they fear pay freezes, public backlash and even losing their jobs amid a wave of budget cuts.
While interviewing 150+ public health experts, analyzing records from 100s of health departments and surveying statehouses, @laura_ungar @MRSmithAP @hannah_recht @annabarryjester and I heard story after story of what this weakened line of defense means amid #COVID19.
Read 12 tweets
30 Jun 20
🚨🚨🚨 Last year, @barbfederostrov and I spent months investigating Jorge Perez's rural hospital empire, which accounted for HALF of the 2019 rural hospital bankruptcies.

@TheJusticeDept just charged him in a $1.4 BILLION fraudulent billing scheme.

khn.org/news/hospital-…
How companies run by Perez and his associates were able to drive so many rural hospitals into the ground so quickly is a story about the fragility of health care in rural America and the types of money-making ventures that have flourished in America's fraught medical system
Perez and his associates would swoop in on struggling rural hospitals and then, prosecutors say, use them as a pass-through for a lab-billing scheme.

He said he was out to save rural hospitals; instead they allegedly brought in $400 million. 8 rural hospitals closed.
Read 9 tweets
12 Jun 20
🚨🚨🚨 Amid the pandemic, at least 27 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired across 13 states, due in part to a mix of backlash and stressful, nonstop working conditions.

W/ @annabarryjester @MRSmithAP @AP @KHNews

khn.org/news/public-he…
Dr. Amy Acton, top health leader in Ohio, dealt with armed protesters at her house. She resigned yesterday. In California’s Orange County, the home address of health officer Dr. Nichole Quick, and her boyfriend’s name, were revealed in a public meeting. She resigned Monday.
I talked to Emily Brown, a member of @NACCHOalerts 's board and a rural health leader in rural Colorado. The day after a Facebook post criticized her and other officials’ weight and called for “armed citizens,” she was fired.
Read 6 tweets
21 Mar 20
NEW from me: I talked to rural hospital CEOs around the country, and the picture is dire.

Right when Americans most need them, droves of rural hospitals are weeks from closing their doors as the coronavirus prep saps their cash.

@NPR @KHNews

npr.org/sections/healt…
Nearly half of America's rural hospitals operate in the red on a normal day, much less during a global pandemic. The waves of canceled surgeries, labs and physical therapy means they may not have enough cash to make payroll in the coming weeks.
As one rural hospital CEO @RandyToblerMD looks at his older, sicker, underinsured patient population, he said he is afraid his MO hospital could last only until May. “In the truly safety-net areas, we’re being called to high duty,” he said. ”And we’re running on fumes.”
Read 6 tweets
6 Feb 20
Did you know your insurer can tell you something is covered, and then after you have surgery say they’re not going to pay for it?

And yes, it’s legal.

Welcome to American health care in 2020.

My latest @KHNews for @USATODAY : usatoday.com/story/news/hea…
This practice, which has left patients with thousands of dollars of bills, is called “retrospective denial.”

Essentially, insurers will give prior authorizations, a type of preapproval growing in number, for surgeries, medicines or tests.
You, the patient, think you’re covered.

But little do you realize those prior authorizations are not a guarantee.
Read 9 tweets
11 Sep 19
We need to talk about @AmbJohnBolton and Ebola.

In case you forgot, we're currently amidst the second-largest Ebola outbreak of all time. Over 2,000 dead so far. No sign of it stopping anytime soon.

The National Security Council had a head of global health security in 2018...
Until Bolton's NSC eliminated that office THE DAY AFTER the current Ebola outbreak was announced.

That followed the departure of White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert -- another champion of investment in global health security -- THE DAY AFTER Bolton joined the WH.
As former Ebola czar @RonaldKlain told me at the time:

huffpost.com/entry/tim-ziem…
Read 6 tweets
20 Aug 19
This is the story of how a Miami entrepreneur and his business associates amassed a rural hospital empire -- and drove it into the ground, devastating towns across the country. Communities lost more than life-saving medical care and hundreds of good jobs. khn.org/news/rural-hos…
Jorge A. Perez said he was out to save rural hospitals. It was his “secret sauce,” Perez would smilingly tell people in their no-stoplight towns. The money-making ventures he proposed sounded complicated, sure, but he said they would bring in enough cash to save their hospital.
But now the hospital empire his companies helped manage is in ruins, and some of the communities that once welcomed him can barely speak his name. As @barbfederostrov and I found in our months of reporting…
Read 7 tweets
23 Jul 19
THREAD: Medicare Advantage is the health care Silicon Valley gold rush right now. Big tech is pouring BIG money into these plans. Little known fact though: Medicare Advantage plans overbill the government by nearly $10 BILLION a year.

npr.org/sections/healt…
As @FredSchulte and I reported last week, the government has had a hard time stopping that due to industry influence. And big money keeps pouring in.

npr.org/sections/healt…
Here in St. Louis, Silicon Valley force John Doerr invested with his brother into a company with a Medicare Advantage plan that’s now grown to be worth $1.64 billion — Essence Group Holdings Corp. It’s a health care darling in an area that prides itself on its emerging tech scene
Read 7 tweets
24 Jan 19
My team @huffpost got eliminated today.

It's been a great ride, from building a Morning Email list of ~1 million people to covering Ebola's resurgence. Grateful for the time I've had and ready to write for you on public health and more: laurenweber421@gmail.com.

Clips below:
My longform profile of a mother sacrificing everything to try to save her daughter from a deadly disease that no one wants to cure:

huffingtonpost.com/entry/rare-gen…
My series of scoops on the conditions at a CA federal prison housing migrant detainees that resulted in an ACLU lawsuit, ultimately getting them transferred elsewhere:

huffingtonpost.com/entry/victorvi…

huffingtonpost.com/entry/victorvi…

huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrat…
Read 6 tweets
5 Jan 19
Don't miss this amid the noise: The Democratic Republic of Congo is on a precipice as it awaits the results from a long-delayed presidential election that observers say was flawed. Helped by that chaos, an Ebola epidemic rages on. My latest and a thread:
huffingtonpost.com/entry/ebola-ou…
DRC is home to over 80 million people and 2/3rds the size of Western Europe. It's never had a peaceful democratic transition of power. Outgoing President Joseph Kabila delayed elections 2 years, and his handpicked successor has been sanctioned for cracking down on the opposition.
The country is also facing the second largest Ebola outbreak of ALL TIME. That's 613 cases and 371 deaths -- 371 people that weren't there for the Christmas and New Year holidays. It's now reached epidemic level, @CDCgov tells me. And sadly, it continues to grow.
Read 15 tweets
28 Dec 18
This is 2018 in America: We're handing out human poop bags as public health infrastructure has rotted so completely that vaccine-preventable hepatitis A is exploding nationwide. My investigation: huffingtonpost.com/entry/hepatiti…
Cases of hepatitis A, a vaccine-preventable disease that attacks the liver and is spread by fecal contamination, have tripled this past year as outbreaks pop up across the country among the homeless and drug-using populations. We're nearing 11,000 cases and 80 people have died.
The millions spent to fight it don’t address the root causes of the underlying problem: a decaying public health infrastructure, devastated by years of funding cuts, that can’t fully meet the twin needs of a population driven to homelessness and devastated by the opioid epidemic.
Read 8 tweets
21 Dec 18
So there's a lot of news going on right now, but something that's continuing to get lost in the noise is the Ebola outbreak happening in a WAR ZONE along with the election turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Buckle in for my thread.
Right now, the DRC is facing the second largest Ebola outbreak OF ALL TIME. That's 560 cases and 336 deaths -- EVEN WITH an experimental vaccine and treatment. Why is it so bad? Take a look at what responders deal with when trying to stop the outbreak:
North Kivu, the primary province where the outbreak is occurring, has been wracked with violence. Attacks from rebel groups like the ADF or bands of Mai-Mai have ratcheted up. One health worker told @TheLancet “Ebola kills, but the rebels kill more." huffingtonpost.com/entry/ebola-ou…
Read 10 tweets
25 Sep 18
My latest: The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, already the seventh largest in history, is on the verge of spinning out of control, according to the @WHO 1/9
huffingtonpost.com/entry/ebola-dr…
The outbreak, which started @MinSanteRDC tells me after a man in Mabalako found an infected dead cat and brought it back home to eat it, is facing a turning point. Political instability has led to rioting and suspicion of government forces, which has sidelined health workers 2/9
The response is being paused in an epicenter of Beni for a week -- an eternity in outbreak control. And one contact known to have Ebola is in a red zone -- inaccessible to health care responders and potentially spreading the disease. 3/9
Read 9 tweets