News Release

KFF Health News’ “Diagnosis: Debt” Series Wins Top Digital Media Honor from the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation

KFF Health News has taken top honors in the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation’s 2023 Awards in Journalism and Research for its series “Diagnosis: Debt.” The multifaceted reporting partnership among KFF Health News, NPR, and CBS News explores the scale, impact, and causes of medical debt in America.

“Diagnosis: Debt” won first place in the digital media category, which included more than 70 entries from news organizations including The Washington Post, ProPublica, and NBC News. Judges cited the series for its powerful and compelling use of storytelling, graphics, and original data to illustrate one of the most difficult issues affecting patients today.

“Diagnosis: Debt” examined the stories behind the more than 100 million people in America who have been pushed into debt by the nation’s health care system, revealing the epidemic of medical debt that has become a defining feature of the American system. In personal, multimedia stories, “Diagnosis: Debt” documented the suffering and sacrifices this burden forces on patients and their families.

“This project is at the heart of our mission at KFF Health News: in-depth journalism that looks at the impact of the health system on people,” said KFF President and CEO Drew Altman, founding publisher of KFF Health News.

The project drew on a nationwide poll, the “KFF Health Care Debt Survey,” designed and analyzed by KFF’s journalists and public opinion researchers, as well as new research into debt and hospital finances, and original investigations by reporters. The investigations included a review of thousands of court records to expose debt collection by nursing homes and an analysis of hospital contracts obtained through public records requests. The most ambitious effort reflected a detailed examination of billing and collection policies at hundreds of U.S. hospitals, many of which resisted public disclosures. That reporting informed an interactive data visualization that allows readers to see the practices of hospitals near them.

The yearlong project was led by Noam N. Levey, a senior correspondent at KFF Health News, and his editor, Kelly Johnson, and included work by Aneri Pattani, a correspondent at KFF Health News; Yuki Noguchi, a correspondent on the Science Desk at NPR; Anna Werner, a consumer investigative national correspondent for CBS News; Juweek Adolphe, a web developer and designer; Bram Sable-Smith, a Midwest correspondent at KFF Health News; Megan Kalata, a writer at KFF Health News; and Terry Byrne, copy chief at KFF Health News. KFF Health News continues to explore the topic.

Medical debt has also been a focus of KFF’s recent policy analysis work, including resources such as “The Burden of Medical Debt in the United States,” “Americans’ Challenges with Health Care Costs,” and “Could Consumer Assistance Be Helpful to People Facing Medical Debt?


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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.