Alison Kodjak | KUOW News and Information

Alison Kodjak

Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak is a health policy correspondent on NPR's Science Desk.

Her work focuses on the business and politics of health care and how those forces flow through to the general public. Her stories about drug prices, limits on insurance and changes in Medicare and Medicaid appear on NPR's shows and in the Shots blog.

She joined NPR in September 2015 after a nearly two-decade career in print journalism, where she won several awards—including three George Polk Awards—as an economics, finance, and investigative reporter.

She spent two years at the Center for Public Integrity, leading projects in financial, telecom, and political reporting. Her first project at the Center, "After the Meltdown," was honored with the 2014 Polk Award for business reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award.

Her work as both reporter and editor on the foreclosure crisis in Florida, on Warren Buffet's predatory mobile home businesses, and on the telecom industry were honored by several journalism organizations. She was part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the 2015 Polk Award for revealing offshore banking practices.

Prior to joining the Center, Alison spent more than a decade at Bloomberg News, where she wrote about the convergence of politics, government, and economics. She interviewed chairmen of the Federal Reserve and traveled the world with two U.S. Treasury secretaries.

And as part of Bloomberg's investigative team she wrote about the bankruptcy of General Motors Corp. and the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. She was part of a team at Bloomberg that successfully sued the Federal Reserve to release records of the 2008 bank bailouts, an effort that was honored with the 2009 George Polk Award. Her work on the international food price crisis in 2008 won her the Overseas Press Club's Malcolm Forbes Award.

Fitzgerald Kodjak and co-author Stanley Reed are authors of In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race that Took It Down, published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

She's a graduate of Georgetown University and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

She raises children and chickens in suburban Maryland.

At the Marshfield Clinic dental center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., hygienist Karen Eslinger is getting her room ready. It's all quite routine — covering the chair's headrest with plastic, opening instruments, wiping down trays.

But then she starts getting creative.

When Jolie Ritzo was looking for day care for her son Cannon in Falmouth, Maine, she checked out as many centers as she could.

She was looking for a place with the right feel.

"Most importantly, the people who are providing the care are loving and kind, nurturing and interested in developing these little beings," she says.

There was one center in town that had a great reputation, but it was so pricey, Ritzo says, "It would break the bank."

Three doctors who have led a task force that evaluates preventive medical services say the group's recommendations shouldn't be tied by law to insurance coverage.

The former chairmen of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say the link between medical recommendations and insurance coverage leads to financial incentives that can corrupt the process and distort people's health care decisions.

Drugmaker Mylan N.V. announced Friday that it had reached a $465 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and other government agencies to resolve questions over rebates required by the Medicaid program.

After nearly seven months of bickering and finger-pointing, Congress on Wednesday agreed to allocate $1.1 billion to help fight the spread and effects of the Zika virus.

The deal is part of a broader agreement to continue to fund the government after the fiscal year ends on Friday and the current budget expires.

The drug company that makes the EpiPen says it isn't nearly as profitable as many people assume it is.

At least that's the message Mylan NV CEO Heather Bresch will try to deliver to members of Congress today.

Bresch, who is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is expected to tell lawmakers that the company earns $100 profit on each two-pack of EpiPen auto-injectors, even though they carry a $600 price tag.

High deductible health plans are the new normal.

Just over half of employees this year have a health insurance policy with a deductible of at least $1,000, according to a survey of employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It's the continuation of a multiyear trend of companies passing more of the costs of employee health care back onto workers.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Consumers don't need to use antibacterial soaps, and some of them may even be dangerous, the Food and Drug Administration says.

On Friday, the FDA issued a rule banning the use of triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals in hand and body washes. which are marketed as being more effective than simple soap.

Summer is winding down, but when members of Congress return to Washington from their vacations next week, many of their constituents want them to do something about the mosquitoes — the ones carrying Zika virus, to be specific.

A new survey shows that three quarters of Americans say Congress should make the allocation of more money to deal with the Zika outbreaks in Florida and Puerto Rico an "important" or "top priority" when they return to Washington.

Treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions is about to get a little cheaper.

Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen, said Monday that it will launch a generic version of the device for half the price of the brand-name product.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

The EpiPen, an injectable drug that reverses severe allergic reactions, just got a little cheaper for some consumers.

The device's manufacturer, Mylan NV, announced Thursday that it will offer coupons worth as much as $300 off a two-pack.

Editor's note: Updated at 9:20 am ET to include Mylan's announcement that it will reimburse consumers for some of their out-of-pocket costs.

EpiPens are in your friend's purse and your kid's backpack. The school nurse has a few, as does Grandma.

The medicine inside — epinephrine — has been around forever, and the handy gadget that injects it into your leg is not particularly new either.

The U.S. could rein in rising drug prices by being more selective about giving patents to pharmaceutical companies for marginal developments, a study concludes.

That's because brand-name drugs with patents that grant exclusivity account for about 72 percent of drug spending, even though they are only about 10 percent of all prescriptions dispensed, according to the study, published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

Insurance giant Aetna will stop selling health insurance through most of the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act in 2017 because the company said it is losing money in many of those markets.

On Monday, Aetna said it will sell individual insurance policies in only 242 counties in four states, down almost 70 percent from the 778 counties in 15 states where the company markets Obamacare plans this year.

The battle continues to rage between drug companies that are trying to make as much money as possible and insurers trying to drive down drug prices. And consumers are squarely in the middle.

That's because, increasingly, prescription insurers are threatening to kick drugs off their lists of approved medications if the manufacturers won't give them big discounts.

Copycat versions of biotech drugs work just as well as the originals and cost a lot less, according to an analysis of studies of the medicines.

The analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that so-called biosimilars — medications that are meant to mimic, and compete with, complex and expensive biotech drugs — perform as well as the brand-name versions.

Maryland Medicaid officials have made what appears to be a small change to the list of preferred medications to treat opioid addictions. The agency used to pay for the drug in a dissolvable film form. Now it's steering patients to tablets, which some doctors say are not as effective for their patients.

Those doctors say the change is having a profound effect on some people struggling to stay clean.

The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

The bill, which had previously passed the House, will now be sent to President Obama. He has indicated that he will sign it, despite concerns that it doesn't provide enough funding.

Obamacare health plans have been getting a bad rap this year. Critics say the premiums are too high, the out-of-pocket costs are out of control, and the requirements and red tape are too thick.

But now the Obama administration is pushing back.

A study released Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services argues that the cost-sharing isn't nearly as heavy as previous analyses have shown, because most consumers get subsidies that limit their deductibles and copayments.

Here's a typical scenario when you have a medical problem. You go to your doctor's office, then have to run across town to a lab for a blood test and then you also have to get an appointment for an X-ray or MRI. There's a good chance this will all require a phone call — or a lot of phones calls — with your insurance company.

It's a hassle and it's time-consuming.

But for many people it's even worse than that.

The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine.

Lisa Lynn Kotnik has been a singer on the New Orleans club circuit for more than 15 years.

"I sang at Fritzel's for eight years," she says. "I sang at the Bombay Club for 15 years, I sang at Margaritaville — the list could go on and on and on."

While Kotnik sings to revelers at night under the stage name Lisa Lynn, in the daytime she's battled health problems — fibroids, ovarian cysts, a hysterectomy and even a brain aneurysm.

Bullying and cyberbullying are major risk factors for teen suicide. And both the bullies and their victims are at risk.

That's according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that urges pediatricians and family doctors to routinely screen teenagers for suicide risks.

People who die in the hospital undergo more intense tests and procedures than those who die anywhere else.

An analysis by Arcadia Healthcare Solutions also shows that spending on people who die in a hospital is about seven times that on people who die at home.

The first time Ray Tamasi got hit up by an investor, it was kind of out of the blue.

"This guy called me up," says Tamasi, president of Gosnold on Cape Cod, an addiction treatment center with seven sites in Massachusetts.

"The guy" represented a group of investors; Tamasi declines to say whom. But they were looking to buy addiction treatment centers like Gosnold.

Public health advocates who are exasperated by the fight on Capitol Hill over how much to spend to combat the Zika virus are looking longingly at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA has a standing fund that it can draw upon when disaster strikes. The fund is replenished when the money is spent cleaning up from hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

The next generation of senior citizens will be sicker and costlier to the health care system over the next 14 years than previous generations, according to a new report from the United Health Foundation. We're talking about you, baby boomers.

The report looks at the current health status of people ages 50 to 64 and compares them to the same ages in 1999.

While Congress fidgets over whether and how to pay for the fight against the Zika virus, state and local health departments are scrambling and slimming down.

That's because these front-line public health agencies have already seen their budgets chopped because of the debate.

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