Sammy Mack

Reporter

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN – Miami Herald News. Her health care journalism is supported by a fellowship with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Like most folks who've worked at a member station, she's worn a lot of hats: interim digital editor during the re-launch of WLRN.org, assistant producer for The Florida Roundup, morning news producer, intern coordinator, party planner. She was one half of the StateImpact Florida education reporting team. 

Her stories have appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, Health News Florida, Gambit Weekly, MAP Magazine, Gulfshore Life, Philadelphia Weekly, the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and other outlets.

Mack’s work has been honored with A Green Eyeshade Award for Investigative Journalism, and Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won a Third Coast International Audio Festival bronze award, an Emmy, regional Edward R. Murrow awards, a Wilbur Award and a Dart Award. Mack was a writing fellow during the 2008 Poynter Summer Fellowship for Young Journalists.

She was recognized by her colleagues as the 2011 Herald Top Chef. She’s happy to share her recipe for garam masala macarons with lemongrass filling.

Ways to Connect

LIP Funding Not Going Up

Oct 20, 2015

The federal government isn’t changing its budget for Florida’s charity health care. 

Foto76 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re going to the beach this weekend, you might want to check the parking prices before loading up the car—this is the first weekend of new, higher parking prices in Miami Beach.

The changes mostly affect metered parking spaces. In some neighborhoods, the meter rates will triple in cost.

You can see the change in fees broken down on the city’s website:

The change is projected to raise an additional $14 million in revenue for Miami Beach.

Castlight Health / www.castlighthealth.com/costliest-cities/

Depending on where she goes for health care, a Florida woman could spend anywhere from $32 to $494 for a human papillomavirus screening, according to a new analysis from Castlight Health.

Castlight is one of the latest organizations to map what Americans are paying for health care. The data for the study come from health care claims provided to Castlight from large, self-insured employers.

tylerericsson1/flickr

Palm Beach County is one vote closer to handing out fines for carrying small amounts of marijuana and marijuana accessories.

The county approved a preliminary reading of a law that would let police officers issue civil citations carrying a $100 fine—instead of criminal charges—for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.

If it passes, the civil citation option would be available in unincorporated Palm Beach County. Municipalities within the county would still have to opt in. West Palm Beach has already passed a rule allowing for the civil citations.

Children who get health insurance through Medicaid go to the dentist about half as often as children in Florida who have private insurance, according to a new study out from the American Dental Association and the Health Policy Institute.

Health Care Cost Institute / healthcostinstitute.org

The true cost of health care is notoriously secret, but an analysis out this week from the Health Care Cost Institute offers a glimpse into how insurance companies spend money in Florida.

“Inpatient prices and outpatient prices can differ within the same area,” says Eric Barrette, director of research for HCCI. “The mix of services isn’t always related to the prices.”

Marcolm / freedigitalphotos.net

When Uwe Reinhardt tries to explains the Gordian Knot of hospital pricing to his health care economics students at Princeton University, he has a go-to metaphor:

“It's almost like blindfolding people, shoving them into Macy's and saying, ‘buy — efficiently — for a shirt.’ Well you come out with a pair of shorts,” says Reinhardt.

freedigitalphotos.net

In our Power of Price series, we’ve been exploring how the secrecy shrouding health care pricing can raise costs — the cost of the care itself and the cost to employees who get their insurance through work.

There’s a movement to make those prices more transparent. More than a dozen other states have started something called an “all-payer claims database.”

These databases track what actually gets paid for care at different hospitals by various insurers. They can be used to analyze the true cost of health care and make it public.

Pakorn / freedigitalphotos.net

Figuring out the real price of health care is complicated — even if you've already paid your bills. You can hear just how complicated it is here:

And if health care pricing wasn’t convoluted enough, it’s hard to talk about it without running into some conversation-stopping jargon. Words that mean one thing to the rest of the English-speaking world can mean something completely different in health care — like a “charge” that isn’t the same as the price.

To help clarify, here’s a glossary of common terms in the world of health care finance:

phasinphoto / freedigitalphotos.net

  Almost a year and a half ago, Mt. Sinai Medical Center CEO Steve Sonenreich pledged on WLRN to make public what insurance companies pay his hospital.

He later told us that because of non-disclosure agreements between the hospital and the region’s insurance companies, he legally couldn’t share that information after all.

It turns out these secrecy agreements are standard practice between South Florida insurers and hospitals.

Florida House of Representatives / floridaredistricting.org

    

  This week on the Florida Roundup: Florida lawmakers race the clock to fix voting maps recently ruled unconstitutional. What could this mean for Sunshine State voters heading into the 2014 Elections?

Join guest host Christine DiMattei and a panel of the region’s top journalists for a conversation about how redistricting impacts Florida voters.

Some of the other stories we’ll be addressing:

cooldesign / freedigitalphotos.net

This week on the Florida Roundup, we're exploring why subsidies to help nearly a million Floridians buy health insurance are on shaky ground.

Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

The public got a sneak peak of the proposed budget for Miami-Dade County Public Schools at its most recent budget workshop.

It’s not final yet, but the superintendent has sketched out a plan for the $2.9 billion budget.

You can hear more on where school leaders would like the money to go:

And you can see the presentation from the meeting:

freedigitalphotos.net

The Florida Department of Education has released practice questions for the new assessments that will replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test next year.

The tests, which are aligned to the new Common Core-based Florida Standards, are available at the Florida Standards Assessments website.  Some questions are similar to what students might have seen on the FCAT—asking test-takers to identify main ideas in a text or figure out a percentage in a word problem.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

Charlie Crist announced he’ll release his tax returns going back nearly 25 years.

“I would challenge Rick Scott to do the same,” said Crist at an event on Thursday.

Crist is running to be the democratic challenger to Gov. Rick Scott in November. Last week, Scott released three years of tax returns for himself and his wife. Republicans had been calling on Crist to submit his financial information, too.

While Crist’s disclosure goes back much further than Scott’s, Crist drew the line at including his wife’s information.

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