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Murray Waas wins top prize for enterprise reporting

Washington-based reporter Murray Waas (photo)​, received a gold award worth $5,000 on Wednesday for his report on US health insurers dropping patients after they were diagnosed with breast cancer - Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Dropped by Insurer​.

His four-month investigation, supported by additional reporting from Lewis Krauskopf, revealed that a giant health insurer had targeted policyholders recently diagnosed with breast cancer for aggressive investigations and cancelled some policies. An exhaustive study of records, hearings and federal data, as well as dozens of interviews with experts, officials and patients led to the story. 

“We published the story in April and the reaction was swift,” said Claudia Parsons, deputy editor for enterprise reporting in the Americas. “The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats urged insurers to end the policy known as rescission immediately - five months before the new healthcare law would require it to do so.”

Within days, one insurer announced it would stop dropping coverage for all customers after they get sick. The very next day, another followed suit, as would most of the health insurance industry in the following days.

The fourth annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism were presented in Phoenix, Arizona. 

“Reuters contrasted the upfront public stance of a health care company and its CEO to the reality behind the scenes, revealing the insidiousness of gatekeeping by software,” said the judges. “This investigation led to government pressure and an industrywide change in the practice of dropping health care coverage for patients after they became sick.”

Waas is himself a cancer survivor who has been active on behalf of other cancer patients. ■