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The political drama surrounding the GOP health bill threatens to distract too many reporters from the critical health care stories in their own communities.

United States Project

Ahead of the release of the Senate GOP’s health bill, CJR encouraged journalists to cover the nation’s health care concerns from the ground up. “What Washington journalists report is not necessarily what audiences in the rest of the country want—or need—to know,” wrote CJR contributing editor Trudy Lieberman. As efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act continue, Lieberman encouraged journalists throughout the country to “scrutinize their own communities’ needs, and use local concerns to shape their coverage.”
 
CJR recently invited contributions from journalists around the country whose work focuses on the healthcare challenges specific to their communities. We asked each reporter to respond to the same question: “As the nation anticipates passage of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, what are the health stories that are most urgent for journalists to tell in your region?”

Throughout this week, as we await a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, CJR will publish dispatches from local and regional health journalists. Here’s what we heard from reporters in South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia:

  • Tell stories that show the “real life-or-death consequences” of the health care bill: “There are patients, doctors, nurses, nursing home providers, hospital administrators, caregivers and Medicaid beneficiaries in almost every corner of the country who have much to say about the health care system,” writes Lauren Sausser, who details her coverage for The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. “For me, covering their stories has always been a good starting point.”
     
  • Cover America’s “testing ground” for responses to drug use, HIV risk: Nearly 100 counties in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia are designated at high risk for HIV infection. Mary Meehan, who covers health for the Ohio Valley ReSource, describes the counties as “a dark splotch in the heart of the country.” How each county responds to such a risk depends on much more than the GOP health bill.
     
  • Report on addiction treatment shortages now—not once a health bill passes: “There are now nearly 100 deaths a day from opioids,” reports STAT Southern correspondent Max Blau. In his latest for STAT, Blau delivers a grim forecast from a group of public health experts on the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis. At CJR, Blau argues that local journalists can play a critical role in “spurring awareness of addiction treatment’s shorting.”
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