Our new Philadelphia partnership

We’ve launched a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com, and their partner 6ABC News, bringing transparency to the Philadelphia health care marketplace by telling people what stuff costs.

The partnership  is funded under the Lenfest Institute’s first funding round for innovation in journalism. We’ll use shoe-leather reporting, crowdsourcing, data journalism and other tools to tell people what stuff costs with the Philadelphia Media Network — the umbrella organization of The  Inquirer, The Daily News and philly.com — and the city’s top television investigative team at 6ABC, WPVI news.

The project was one of several in a $2 million round of funding, the institute’s first, announced recently. In the category of “public service and investigative journalism,” in the Philadelphia Media Network-centered part of the grant funding announcement, our work is described in these words: “Consumer Healthcare Coverage: PMN will add both reporting and web-development capabilities to examine local healthcare data and issues related to health costs and quality to help consumers make more informed decisions.” PMN editors have several initiatives planned, including ours, in this domain. We are working out details of our involvement.

Other grantees include a number of big names in journalism: the Solutions Journalism Network, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Backyard Media, the News Revenue Hub, WHYY public radio and WURD radio, among others. The grant announcement is here.

Coverage by and about us

May 20: “Troubleshooters: Pharmacist gag rule,” Nydia Han, 6ABC Action News.

May 16: “Drug price ‘gag clauses’ make your medicine more expensive. Now, they’re under fire nationally,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

May 11: “$13 or $464 for the same statin drug? This Pa. site shows where the deals are,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

May 7: “A night of pain sent them to the ER. A surprise bill from the doctor added to the misery,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

May 4: “Philadelphia couple receive costly charges for clinical trial,” Nydia Han, 6ABC Action News.

April 25: “The drug that controls her lupus is $8,300 a dose. Welcome to the world of biologics,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

April 20: “Patient beware: Insurance covers colonoscopies in full – except when it doesn’t,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

April 12: “Paying less for prescription drugs,”  Nydia Han, 6ABC Action News.

April 11: “For this family, the flu’s final gut punch was an $887 testing charge,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

April 3: “How having health insurance spiked her bill by $400,”  Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 28: “TV’s ‘Roseanne’ can’t afford her prescription medication, either,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 21: “She didn’t have $3,000 for cataract surgery – until an Inquirer reader stepped up,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 21: “His insurer approved an MRI, then denied it. He forked out $2,340 in cash,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 20: “Philly Zine Fest founder maintains successful GoFundMe page for his cancer bills, and it still isn’t enough,” Cassie Owens, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 15: “She was quoted $351 for a breast MRI. Then she was charged $4,650,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

March 15: “Watch out for those facility fees,” Nydia Han, 6ABC Action News.

March 7: “She had a colonoscopy without anesthesia – but it was on her bill anyway,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Feb. 26: “Philly Health Costs: Helping Out Other Consumers,” Nydia Han, 6ABC.

Feb. 26: “How Lasik and Botox could point the way to health-care price transparency,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Feb. 23: “Expect more like this important development in the coming months — the sooner they reach the minds and pocketbooks or health care consumers, the better, in the short-run.” Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, “Health Populi.”

Feb. 22: “WPVI and Philadelphia Inquirer partner on health costs project,” TV News Check.

Feb. 22: “Have a high-deductible insurance plan? Knowing the cash prices could save you money,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Feb. 21: “One MRI is $1,000 more than another. That’s just the start of Philly’s health-care pricing mysteries,” Sarah Gantz, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Feb. 21: 6ABC did a Facebook Live demonstrating how to use the PriceCheck tool.

Nydia Han’s leadoff piece on 6ABC.

Our national partnership strategy

This continues our national strategy of bringing transparency to health care not only on our home site, but also in partnership with other news organizations, including WVUE Fox 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune in New Orleans; KQED public radio in San Francisco; KPCC public radio in Los Angeles; WLRN public radio in Miami; WUSF public radio in Tampa-St. Petersburg; their Florida partnership, Health News Florida; and MedPage Today, a provider of news, opinion and medical education to 670,000 providers. Read about our national partnerships here.

We had a previous partnership in Philadelphia with WHYY public radio, which ran for several months in 2015 and then went into hiatus. Read about that partnership here.

This post from NiemanLab describes our partnership in New Orleans with WVUE FOX 8 Live and NOLA.com I The Times-Picayune, our largest to date.

Our work has been funded by a few angel investors and also by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation (via the International Women’s Media Foundation), the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, the McCormick Foundation (via J-Lab at American University) and others.

Lenfest’s first call for grants

This was the first open call for grants from the Lenfest Institute, and Lenfest officials said “the quantity and quality of the applications was impressive.” We learned that the number of applications was well above 300, for just a very few grants.

“We were delighted by the response to our open call for innovative ideas to help advance the business of local journalism,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Institute. “Our only regret is that we were not able to support more of the exciting ideas that were proposed.”

“The Institute was founded with the belief that local journalism depends for its success on investment in high-impact news content, best-of-breed digital product development, and the cultivation of a new, diverse and growing audience of readers,” Friedlich said. He also thanked donors who contributed to the fund from which the grants were drawn,  “for their commitment to great, local journalism.”

About the institute, from its web site: “The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is the first-of-its-kind non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. Lenfest gifted to the Institute an initial endowment of $20 million, which has since been supplemented by other donors, for investment in innovative news initiatives, new technology, and new models for sustainable journalism. Lenfest also gifted his ownership of the Philadelphia Media Network (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com, the Philadelphia region’s largest local news website) and these news properties now serve as a live lab for the Institute’s innovation efforts. The Institute is overseen by a Board of Managers including news executives, media entrepreneurs, software and technology executives, philanthropists, community leaders and leading academics.

“The Philadelphia news properties are now the largest newspapers in America operated as a public-benefit corporation, under the non-profit ownership of the Institute, dedicated solely to the mission of preserving local journalism nationwide. These news properties will also serve as a live lab for the Institute’s innovation investments.