Two Minute Tips

3 story ideas on health insurance and medical bills

June 27, 2019

Share this article:

Business reporters can help their readers by looking into one or of the following stories. (Image via

A random survey of 3,500 adults released on April 2, 2019 conducted by Gallup and West Health, a nonprofit based in San Diego, has received renewed attention.

“The U.S. Healthcare Crisis” uncovered these two disturbing facts: One in every four consumers skipped a medical treatment in 2018 because of cost. In addition, Americans borrowed $88 billion last year to pay their medical bills.

Business reporters can help their readers avoid taking either one of these extreme measures by looking into one or of the following stories:

Understand the “ABCs” of your employer’s policy

More than 178 million Americans have employer-sponsored health insurance. Yet many are not getting all the benefits offered because they either don’t understand what their policy covers, or fail to take advantage of benefits–or both.

Employers can offer “HDHPs,” “HSAs,” “FSAs,” and “HRAs,” or even a combination, such as a HDHP with an HSA. Do your readers understand this alphabet “soup” of an employer’s potential offerings–and are they taking advantage of them? This link provides a good backgrounder. Another: the 22nd annual survey on Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey from Willis Towers Watson.   

Nearly three-quarters of employers offer employees a High-Deductible Health Plan tied to a Health Savings Account. Yet in 2017, 43% of employees didn’t contribute any of their own money to these tax-advantaged accounts, which adds up to a missed opportunity for many to reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

Find better ways to manage a medical bill

There are a half-dozen or more ways for consumers to manage a medical bill without paying with a credit card or taking out a loan that charge high interest rates. provides this useful backgrounder on how to manage medical bills. A patient can ask the hospital for a copy of their financial assistance guidelines, ideally before having operation or unexpected procedure.

They can also ask the hospital or their doctor about paying on a sliding scale, if they’re in a difficult financial situation. Another: Using a doctor or hospital with church-related ties, which may be more forgiving of a high bill. Knowing one’s rights under the Fair Collection Practices Act is essential if a bill has gone into collection. Develop this story with more reporting from Medical Advocates of America, Families USA, and the local office of the Legal Aid Society.

Go social about your medical bills

When no one else will listen, appealing for help with medical bills on a crowdsourcing website such as GoFundMe can be surprisingly effective. Visitors to the site contribute $650 million to 250,000 medical appeals annually, which are one in every three appeals received, says CEO Rob Solomon.

Find a campaign in your demographic whose employer-provided healthcare coverage fell short and interview them to bring this story home. Business reporters may also find a local charity that offers help with bills.

More Like This...

Is telehealth here to stay?

Telehealth surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the experience of virtual doctor’s visits to scores of people who’d never had – or even wanted – to Zoom with their medical

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!