Best of 2012: Health reporting

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The year in medical investigations

By The Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity's health reporting in 2012 included "Cracking the Codes," an investigation that exposed loopholes in Medicare billing costing billions of tax dollars. Since the series ran, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder have threatened possible criminal prosecutions of doctors and hospitals that use electronic health records to bill for more complex and costly services than they actually delivered. In addition, the HHS Office of Inspector General stepped up its focus on possible Medicare billing fraud and abuse associated with electronic health records

As part of its "Hard Labor" series, the Center looked at the lack of government response to a resurgence of black lung in coal miners. After the stories were published, the Mine Safety and Health Administration escalated inspections of mines for deadly dust. The series also highlighted new research showing high breast cancer risks among female workers in the plastics industry. “The Center for Public Integrity is doing a real service by publishing these stories,” wrote Ross Eisenbrey with the Economic Policy Institute. “In the case of workplace safety and health, we need more regulation, not less.”

"Mystery in the Fields" was a series about a mysterious kidney disease affecting Central America, Sri Lanka and parts of India. Since the series, new steps have been taken to unearth the cause and protect workers. In Sri Lanka, the president has pledged tighter controls over agrichemicals. In November, a chronic kidney disease conference in Costa Rica included a scientist from Sri Lanka – marking the first time scientists from different regions met to compare their experiences firsthand.