Alison Kodjak

Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak is a health policy correspondent on NPR's Science Desk.

Her work focuses on the business and politics of health care and how those forces flow through to the general public. Her stories about drug prices, limits on insurance and changes in Medicare and Medicaid appear on NPR's shows and in the Shots blog.

She joined NPR in September 2015 after a nearly two-decade career in print journalism, where she won several awards—including three George Polk Awards—as an economics, finance, and investigative reporter.

She spent two years at the Center for Public Integrity, leading projects in financial, telecom, and political reporting. Her first project at the Center, "After the Meltdown," was honored with the 2014 Polk Award for business reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award.

Her work as both reporter and editor on the foreclosure crisis in Florida, on Warren Buffet's predatory mobile home businesses, and on the telecom industry were honored by several journalism organizations. She was part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the 2015 Polk Award for revealing offshore banking practices.

Prior to joining the Center, Alison spent more than a decade at Bloomberg News, where she wrote about the convergence of politics, government, and economics. She interviewed chairmen of the Federal Reserve and traveled the world with two U.S. Treasury secretaries.

And as part of Bloomberg's investigative team she wrote about the bankruptcy of General Motors Corp. and the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. She was part of a team at Bloomberg that successfully sued the Federal Reserve to release records of the 2008 bank bailouts, an effort that was honored with the 2009 George Polk Award. Her work on the international food price crisis in 2008 won her the Overseas Press Club's Malcolm Forbes Award.

Fitzgerald Kodjak and co-author Stanley Reed are authors of In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race that Took It Down, published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

She's a graduate of Georgetown University and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

She raises children and chickens in suburban Maryland.

Insurance giant Aetna will stop selling health insurance through most of the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act in 2017 because the company said it is losing money in many of those markets.

On Monday, Aetna said it will sell individual insurance policies in only 242 counties in four states, down almost 70 percent from the 778 counties in 15 states where the company markets Obamacare plans this year.

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts.

Copycat versions of biotech drugs work just as well as the originals and cost a lot less, according to an analysis of studies of the medicines.

The analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that so-called biosimilars — medications that are meant to mimic, and compete with, complex and expensive biotech drugs — perform as well as the brand-name versions.

Maryland Medicaid officials have made what appears to be a small change to the list of preferred medications to treat opioid addictions. The agency used to pay for the drug in a dissolvable film form. Now it's steering patients to tablets, which some doctors say are not as effective for their patients.

Those doctors say the change is having a profound effect on some people struggling to stay clean.

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

The bill, which had previously passed the House, will now be sent to President Obama. He has indicated that he will sign it, despite concerns that it doesn't provide enough funding.

Obamacare health plans have been getting a bad rap this year. Critics say the premiums are too high, the out-of-pocket costs are out of control, and the requirements and red tape are too thick.

But now the Obama administration is pushing back.

A study released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services argues that the cost-sharing isn't nearly as heavy as previous analyses have shown, because most consumers get subsidies that limit their deductibles and copayments.

Here's a typical scenario when you have a medical problem. You go to your doctor's office, then have to run across town to a lab for a blood test and then you also have to get an appointment for an X-ray or MRI. There's a good chance this will all require a phone call — or a lot of phones calls — with your insurance company.

It's a hassle and it's time-consuming.

But for many people it's even worse than that.

The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine.

Lisa Lynn Kotnik has been a singer on the New Orleans club circuit for more than 15 years.

"I sang at Fritzel's for eight years," she says. "I sang at the Bombay Club for 15 years, I sang at Margaritaville — the list could go on and on and on."

While Kotnik sings to revelers at night under the stage name Lisa Lynn, in the daytime she's battled health problems — fibroids, ovarian cysts, a hysterectomy and even a brain aneurysm.

Bullying and cyberbullying are major risk factors for teen suicide. And both the bullies and their victims are at risk.

That's according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that urges pediatricians and family doctors to routinely screen teenagers for suicide risks.

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