Covering Medicare: Care, Costs, Control and Consequences

Medicare reform, a key issue in the 2012 election, continues to grab headlines. The issues surrounding the current Medicare system, the costs of Medicare, and various proposals for reining in spending and improving access and care will be contentious news topics for months and years to come. Journalists of all beats are affected, from health care to business to community and living.

To cover Medicare effectively, journalists must understand the economic pressures of the Medicare program, stakeholder concerns, payment and delivery issues, reform possibilities, quality measurements and implications of Medicare policymaking.

Look no further! This page presents resources that offer journalists an overview of these complex issues as well as pointing them to sources who can provide in-depth information, an understanding of the implications of Medicare issues on local communities and guidance in generating and reporting stories on Medicare.

These resources are provided as part of a McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI), “Covering Medicare: Care, Costs, Control and Consequences," hosted by The Poynter Institute on May 5-7, 2013. The SRI was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Find an Expert

Juliette Cubanski, Ph.D., associate director, Program on Medicare Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation: Dr. Cubanski helps to lead the foundation’s activities related to the Kaiser Project on Medicare’s Future, a major initiative focused on producing timely and authoritative analysis of leading Medicare reform proposals and on informing the debate about the future of Medicare., 202-347-5270

Stuart Guterman, vice president at the Commonwealth Fund and executive director of the Fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System: Mr. Guterman works on payment and delivery system reform issues, including issues related to Medicare policy and coordination of care for beneficiaries who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare., 202-292-6735

Trudy Lieberman, fellow, the Center for Advancing Health, and longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR): Ms. Lieberman is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s health care desk, which is part of CJR’s United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy., 212-228-5725

Michael L. Millenson, president of Health Quality Advisors LLC and a nationally recognized expert on improving the quality of care, patient empowerment and e-health,, 312-952-1075

Elizabeth Strombom, Florida Blue’s senior vice president of government markets: Ms. Strombom provides overall leadership for the Medicare and Medicaid business divisions., 904-905-1290

Although the Medicare News Group has shut down, the website is still working, and the MNG's database of experts is still available.

Blogs Worth Reading

The Medicare Blog: The official blog for the U.S. Medicare program

The CMS Blog: The official blog for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

The Health Care Blog

Health Affairs Blog, daily commentary on important issues in health policy

Twitter Handles to Follow

@Trudy_Lieberman: CJR's Trucy Lieberman, an SRI presenter

@MedicareGov: The official account of the U.S. Medicare program

@KaiserFamFound: Health policy analysis, polling & research

Key Resources

Resources from the SRI

This section offers links to presentations and documents that were presented at the Specialized Reporting Institute, “Covering Medicare: Care, Costs, Control and Consequences." Be sure to click the Training tab for links to short videos of interviews with key presenters.

Dr. Steven Bernstein's presentation on Accountable Care Organizations offers detailed case studies illustrating the benefits of ACOs

Dr. David Blumenthal's testimony to the U.S. Senate, Stabilizing and Strengthening Medicare in the Context of Broader Health Reform

Juliette Cubanski, Ph.D.'s presentation offered an Overview of Policy Options to Sustain Medicare for the Future, including a look at various proposals for Medicare reform

Stuart Guterman, vice president and executive director of the Commission on a High Performance Health System for The Commonwealth Fund presented Leaving Fee-for-Service Behind: Moving Toward Pay-for-Performance, a discussion of problems in the current Medicare payment system and description of payment reform options

Paying for Value: Replacing Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate Formula with Incentives to Improve Care, an Issue Brief by Stuart Guterman, Mark A. Zezza and Cathy Schoen of The Commonwealth Fund

Confronting Costs, from The Commonwealth Fund, a publication of the Commission on a High Performance Health System, headed by Stuart Guterman

Judith Lave, Ph.D. presented Pressures on the Medicare Program, a description of trends in Medicare funding and costs and their impact on Medicare's future

Handouts from Michael Millenson's SRI talk included:

Dr. Jim Rivenbark presented Healthcare in Transition, a discussion of why the era of small, physician-owned practices is coming to an end and what other options exist

Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, president of Global Policy Solutions, presented Medicare and Retirement Security, a description of who uses Medicare and how these populations would be affected by proposed reforms

Mr. Allen Weiss presented on Medicare stakeholders, a presentation offering several charts and graphics on changes in Medicare over time and forecasts for the future

Key Web Resources, the official government site for Medicare

Health Affairs, the leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research

Medicare Uncovered, a series of articles by Trudy Lieberman of the CJR

The Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives

The Council for Affordable Health Coverage, a coalition of insurers, employers, patients, consumers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and providers that advocate market-oriented health care policies

Resources for Reporting on Health Care

How to Report on Health Care Quality by Darshak Sanghavi presents advice and story ideas for reporters tackling the health care beat


Self-Directed Course

On the Beat: Covering Hospitals: To fully understand Medicare, a sound foundation in the health care and hospitals beat is vital. This self-directed course can provide some of the basics: How are hospitals funded? Where can you find the best sources in hospital administration? What questions do you need to ask to uncover stories about quality of care or financial management?


Medicare Reform: Reporting Past the Rhetoric: Originally broadcast during the 2012 presidential election, this Webinar provides the background needed to understand various proposals for Medicare reform

Video: Teaching Moments from the SRI

Note: If you do not see the videos below, click here

Steven Bernstein, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, recommends that reporters use quantifiable data and think like patients when reporting on health care organizations.

Steven Bernstein

Juliette Cubanski, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Program on Medicare Policy, says that when it comes to Medicare reform, journalists often focus on what changes mean for providers. But the implications for the 15 million stakeholders on Medicare are more important.


Stuart Guterman, vice president and executive director of Commission on a High Performance Health System, names doctors, nurses and other hospital employees as great sources for Medicare stories in your own community.


James F. Rivenbark III, a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine, talks about the pros and cons of consolidation of health care providers and the transition away from the fee-for-service model. He mentions health-care professionals' fear of their message being taken out of context by journalists.

James F. Rivenbark III

Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, suggests that journalists study the impact of health care policy on people's lives by looking at key variables in real people's lives, including ethnicity, economic status and age.


Elizabeth Strombom, Florida Blue’s senior vice president of government markets, emphasizes the changes coming in the health care landscape — and the importance of educating the public on these changes.

Elizabeth Strombom

Allen Weiss, president and CEO of the Naples Community Hospital (NCH) Healthcare System, talks about how prevention can be a cost-cutting strategy.

Allen Weiss