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

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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.

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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:

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  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:

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

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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:

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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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We spend a lot of time together on the road, you (audience) and us (WLRN). If you’re like most of our listeners, we’re with you in the car just about every day -- through your speakers, at least.

But we want to take it to the next level: We want to actually get in the car with your family, your friends, your coworkers.

Maria Murriel

Before Sir Patrick Stewart quit high school at 15 years old, an English teacher handed him a copy of "The Merchant of Venice" by William Shakespeare and told Stewart to read the part of Shylock. That one act changed everything for the working-class teenager from Yorkshire, England. Hear him talk about reading Shakespeare for the first time.

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Broward County voters will have a big decision to make about school funding in November.

The School Board of Broward County School approved a resolution to put a bond vote on the fall ballot.

Broward schools are asking for $800 million — most of which will go towards school renovations and technology upgrades, says Superintendent Robert Runcie.

The school district has to overcome a reputation damaged by a history of mismanagement and corruption.

You can hear more here:

Marlin Levison / Miami Herald

Brown v. Board of Education — the Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools were inherently unequal — turns 60 years old this year.

Earlier this week, we brought you memories from students and teachers who were there in the early days of desegregation.

And now, with decades of perspective, here are some of the things they learned from integration:

"You don't get black or white from kids"

Today on WLRN-Miami Herald News, you heard:

Sammy Mack / WLRN

 

Journalist Nathan Deuel grew up in South Florida, but in 2008 he and his wife, Kelly McEvers, moved to the Middle East. 

During their five years abroad, they had their first child and McEvers became NPR’s Baghdad bureau chief. The family moved around the region as the Arab Spring erupted. 

Deuel has written a memoir about that experience, called "Friday Was The Bomb." He’ll be speaking tonight at Books & Books in Coral Gables at 8 p.m. 

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A ProPublica investigation earlier this month looked at how Medicare providers charged for their services in 2012 and found unusual billing patterns among a number of Florida care providers.

On average, most providers only charged for the most complex, expensive level of care during office visits about 4 percent of the time. But in Florida, nearly 100 Medicare providers with relatively high volume billed at the most expensive rate 100 percent of the time.

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