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The New York Times
Health Care Reporter
Photo Above (9/14): Ms. Sanger-Katz moderating a panel at the National Health Research Forum.
Beat: Health Care Policy, The Affordable Care Act, and Related Healthcare Topics
Ms. Sanger-Katz, 34, was tapped to join the small staff of The Upshot, a blog launched in April 2014 by The New York Times that aims to cover politics and policy, with news, analysis, data-driven reporting, charts and creative writing. The Upshot is overseen by David Leonhardt, a former Times Washington bureau chief and a Pulitzer Prize winning economics columnist (2011).
That Mr. Leonhardt recruited Ms. Katz to be The Upshot’s expert on healthcare-related topics speaks highly of his view of her journalism record and promise. Mr. Leonhardt undoubtedly could have selected virtually any member of the Times’s existing healthcare reporting team to join him, or for that matter, numerous seasoned healthcare reporters at the paper’s competitors who would have leapt at the opportunity.
Ms. Sanger-Katz, who is based in Washington D.C., joined the Times in July 2014, after completing a prestigious mid-career Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University. Previously, she reported on health care for the National Journal (July 2011 to May 2014), as well as for the Concord (NH) Monitor (July 2005 to December 2009).
At National Journal, Mr. Leonhardt wrote, Ms. Sanger-Katz has been “ahead of the curve in reporting on both Obamacare’s problems and its successes.”
Ron Brownstein, editorial director of National Journal and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, wrote of Ms. Sanger-Katz: “She’s smart, tough, totally unswayed by conventional wisdom, and an instinctive debunker: not a reporter who travels with the pack.”
Thus far, Ms. Sanger-Katz’s articles for The Upshot and the print edition of the Times have not been sufficiently groundbreaking to merit a single front-page (Page A1) byline, however she has already contributed just shy of ten articles that have run on Page A3 of the print edition – high-profile journalism real estate.
And true to Mr. Brownstein’s billing, what she posts on The Upshot regularly attempts to debunk conventional wisdom. She has reported, for example, that Medicaid is actually quite popular, despite the frequent criticism it draws; Medicare is not as much of a budget-buster as many people assume; and that so-called “narrow network” health insurance plans do not necessarily mean – as is often assumed – that patients will have to struggle to find the care they need.
Approximately 60% to 70% of what Ms. Sanger-Katz has written since joining the Times has appeared only online, not in print. Consistent with most newspaper blogs, her posts for The Upshot are often shorter than standard news features – although she has posted some lengthy stories – and sometimes are written using “we” to refer to herself or to the blog.
One revealing snippet from Ms. Sanger-Katz’s writing can be found in a September 9, 2014 post titled, “Narrow Health Networks: Maybe They’re Not So Bad.” In the first two paragraphs of the post, she explains that many consumers have selected so-called “narrow network” healthcare plans that cost less but limit consumers’ choice of providers, causing “consumer advocates and insurance regulators” to worry that “people will struggle to find the care they need if their choices are limited.”
She then begins the third paragraph, “Maybe we don’t have to worry so much.” It is her choice of the word “we” (versus “they”) that leaps out. As a journalist, she is not charged with also being a “consumer advocate,” although by using “we” she groups herself (and perhaps her colleagues at The Upshot) in with previously worried advocates.
In a column introducing The Upshot when it debuted in April 2014, Mr. Leonhardt, the editor, promised he and his staff would write “in a direct, plain-spoken way, the same voice we might use when writing an email to a friend.”
Mr. Leonhardt said the Times launched The Upshot to help readers better “grasp big, complicated stories – Obamacare, inequality, political campaigns, the real estate and stock markets – so well that they can explain the whys and hows of those stories to their friends, relatives and colleagues.” It is noteworthy that the first topic that Mr. Leonhardt mentions, Obamacare, is now Ms. Sanger-Katz’s principal area of responsibility.
Howard Kurtz, who covers the media for Fox News, offered a different take on the Times’ decision to launch The Upshot in a column Mr. Kurtz wrote at the time of the blog’s debut. “The New York Times is declaring emphatically that it’s moved on from the Nate Silver era,” Mr. Kurtz wrote.
Mr. Silver was a Times political and polling blogger who rocketed to fame by correctly forecasting President Obama’s reelection in 2012. But after Mr. Silver and the Times failed to reach a legal and financial arrangement for Mr. Silver’s services, he quit the paper and took his blogging and polling talents to ESPN. The Upshot, Mr. Kurtz and some other media pundits believe, is intended to fill the vacuum left by Mr. Silver, without being an exact clone of his former blog.
How the Times’ print healthcare reporters and editors feel about Ms. Sanger-Katz reporting on their turf, but largely independent of them, is open to question. Mr. Leonhardt wrote that Ms. Sanger-Katz “is chomping at the bit to collaborate with The Times’ tremendous staff of health care journalists, whom she has long admired.” The feelings may be mutual, although it would not surprise NewsBios if some of the Times veterans are less enthusiastic about working with the newcomer.
Stories by Ms. Sanger-Katz that have appeared in on Page A3 of the print edition and run on The Upshot include (Note: the headlines may differ between the print and online versions):
- Only 11 Percent of Uninsured Know About Obamacare’s Next Open Enrollment – October 21
- Health Plan Cancellations Are Coming, but for Relatively Few – October 6
- With New Health Law, Shopping Around Can Be Crucial – September 17 (By Margot Sanger-Katz and Amanda Cox)
- Per Capita Medicare Spending Is Actually Falling – September 3
- Medicare: Not Such a Budget-Buster Anymore – August 27 (By Margot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy)
- Why More, Not Fewer, People Might Start Getting Health Insurance – August 20
An article by Ms. Sanger-Katz on August 2nd, “Critics Raise Concern About Sovaldi,” ran on the front-page of the print edition’s Business section. The story dealt with complaints about the high cost of a drug produced by Gilead Sciences to treat hepatitis C. On The Upshot, where the wording or articles may differ from their print counterparts, Ms. Sanger-Katz wrote: “But maybe we are looking at the costs of Sovaldi in the wrong way. One reason it is causing such angst among insurers and state Medicaid officials is that treatment costs are coming all at once…. Think about AIDS treatment as paying a mortgage. Sovaldi is like buying a house with cash.”
[NewsBios Note: Another article by Ms. Sanger-Katz about Sovaldi, published August 7th, required an usual three corrections to be printed in the Times. The story, Why the Hepatitis Cure Sovaldi Is a Budgetary Disaster for Prisons, asserted that prisoners are the only group in America with a “constitutional right” to medical care.
Initially, the Times printed a correction, stating that Native Americans also have a constitutional right to medical care. Then the newspaper had to correct that correction, acknowledging that Ms. Sanger-Katz was accurate in the first place because Native American medical rights come not from the Constitution, but under treaty and law. Finally, the Times ran a third correction, unrelated to the first two, because Ms. Sanger-Katz’s original article “contained an outdated reference to the relationship between the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the state’s prison system. While the medical school used to work with the prison system, it no longer does.”]
Stories by Ms. Sanger-Katz that have only run on The Upshot include:
- Medicaid, Often Criticized, Is Quite Popular With Its Customers – October 9
- Health Care Marketplaces Expand, but Answers for Shoppers Remain Scarce – October 2
- In Context, Health Premium Increases Don’t Actually Look Like Increases – September 22
- New Estimates on Health Coverage Are Accurate but Outdated – September 16
- Latest Good News in Health Spending: Employer Premiums – September 10
- Narrow Health Networks: Maybe They’re Not So Bad – September 9
- How People Feel About Their Employer-Sponsored Health Plans – September 4
- The Science Behind Suicide Contagion – August 13
Ms. Sanger-Katz was one of only ten journalists chosen for the 2013-2014 Knight-Bagehot program. The yearlong Knight-Bagehot fellowships allow journalists to expand their knowledge of business, economics and finance. The program provides full tuition and a generous stipend to offset living expenses. Fellows not only take graduate school courses at Columbia University in journalism, business, law and international affairs, they also participate in off-the-record seminars and dinner meetings with top corporate executives, economists and academics.
Among the other journalists in Ms. Sanger-Katz’s Knight-Bagehot class were (affiliations and ages at the time they began): Anjali Athavaley, 28, The Wall Street Journal; Jeff Horwitz, 31, American Banker; Spencer Soper, 39, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA): and Peter Svensson, 40, The Associated Press. (Many Knight-Bagehot fellows do not return to their originating news organizations when their year is completed.)
Mr. Leonhardt, editor of The Upshot, explained in an internal memo introducing Ms. Sanger-Katz that she sought out the Knight-Bagehot program “because, she says, the health care story was becoming more of a business story and she wanted the expertise to cover it.”
In addition to Mr. Leonhardt and Ms. Sanger-Katz, staff members of The Upshot include: Claire Cain Miller, who has covered technology from the Times’ San Francisco bureau since 2008; and Anna Bahr, a 2014 graduate of Barnard College who served as managing editor of the student-run Blue and White Magazine. Mr. Leonhardt, Ms. Sanger-Katz and Ms. Miller are all Yale alumni.
Address: 620 8th Avenue • New York, NY 10018
Chain of Command: Reports to David Leonhardt, editor, The Upshot blog at The New York Times
DOB: February 8, 1980
Joined: July 2014
- Yale University – BA English 2002 cum laude
- Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism – MSJ 2003
- Columbia University, Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism (2013-2014)
Ms. Sanger-Katz has participated in various other fellowships and courses, including:
- Kaiser Family Foundation Media Fellowship, Washington State Site Visit in 2014
- Association for Health Care Journalists, Media Fellowship on Health Performance in 2012
- The Knight Science Journalism Fellowship’s Medical Evidence Boot Camp in December 2009
- National Institutes of Health, Medicine in the Media Course in May 2008
- Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Health Coverage Fellowship in May 2007
- Dartmouth Medial School, Project Medical Education in January 2007
- July 2014 – present, health care reporter, The Upshot, The New York Times (Washington, D.C.)
- August 2013 – May 2014, Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University
- September 2011 – August 2013, health care correspondent, National Journal
- January 2010 – July 2011, senior staff editor, Yale Alumni Magazine
- July 2005 – December 2009, reporter (health care and politics), Concord (NH) Monitor
- May 2003 to July 2005, associate editor, Legal Affairs Magazine
Memberships: Association of Health Care Journalists
Photo (6/14): From Ms. Sanger-Katz’s Facebook page
Ms. Sanger-Katz maintains a personal website featuring her previous writing and media appearances at www.sangerkatz.com.
She writes of herself: “Her recent work focuses on health policy and the business of health care, but previous stories have included New Hampshire’s militia movement, the John McCain presidential campaign, Indiana’s fight over daylight saving time, and the death penalty. Also, dinosaurs.”
On Twitter @sangerkatz, Ms. Sanger-Katz has just shy of 3,000 followers. She has posted about 2,800 tweets and follows 832 others. She describes herself as a “Popcorn enthusiast. Handbreaker.” [We don’t know what handbreaker refers to.]
Most of Ms. Sanger-Katz’s tweets pertain to health care or to articles she’s read, especially in The New York Times. She is more generous than many journalists in also pointing to articles she likes that were written by journalists at rival news organizations.
Among recent tweets that provide a glimpse of her personality:
- Learned a new weather term today, in Seattle: “sun breaks.” – October 21
- The Empire State Building won’t add the new skyscraper 432 Park to its interactive skyline display. “It’s medieval.” – October 13
- Inbox: “This is Not a Pitch.” (It is.) – October 13
- Credit to @SecBurwell for doing an hour on-the-record event with reporters today. – October 9
- Missed this over the weekend. Giraffes, socially complex, basically mute, are the “forgotten megafauna.” – October 6
- I made the popcorn featured in the lede of the @nytimes craft popcorn story. – October 6
- Ben Bernanke can’t refinance his mortgage. Seriously – October 2
- (I got my flu shot today.) – October 1
Among the Twitter accounts she follows:
- @EverydaySexism – documenting experiences of sexism, harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is & create solidarity
- @80sDonDraper – Classy. Powerful. ‘80s. Tweets by John McNamee (@piecomic)
- @SATC3quel – It’s official – Sex and the City 3 is on!
- @HillaryClinton – Official account for Hillary Clinton
- @nwpapas – Nick Papas, member of the Airbnb comms team. Former White House spokesman.
- @selfawareROOMBA – Why did you make ROOMBA? What is meaning to ROOMBA?
- @SexxyPoseidon – God of the Sea. Into Magazines. Handy With A Trident.
- @TheTweetOfGod – “I’m your dope-ass divinity, trollin’ with My trinity…
- @ModernSeinfeld – What if Seinfeld were still on the air?
- @WHCShow – Westbrook Hunt Club – a full-service hunter/jumper facility. WHC hosts a rated and non-rated horse shows
Ms. Sanger-Katz has 37 friends on her Facebook account at: https://www.facebook.com/UpshotMargot. She is followed by 312 people. Her friends include:
- Justin Zaremby, corporate associate, Cravath, Swaine & Moore
- Jamal Motlagh, CEO & founder, Acustom Apparel
- Jake Kaufman, fellow, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
- Johanna Piazza, editor at Yahoo
- Denny Denniston, general manager, United Bank for Africa (Also friends with Tom and Billy Denniston)
- Ellen Plumb, primary care research fellow, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals
- Meredith Sanger-Katz (her sister)
There are no public records or social media posts to indicate that Ms. Sanger-Katz is married or has children.
While at Yale, she participated in equestrian competitions as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and after graduation served as the team’s head coach. She competed in the IHSA Nationals as an alumna as recently as 2009.
Both of Ms. Sanger-Katz’s parents graduated from prestigious colleges. Her mother, Mary Sanger, graduated with honors from Vassar College and received her doctorate from the Florence Heller School of Brandeis University. Her father, Harry Alan Katz, 63, graduated cum laude from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and received his MBA from the Harvard Business School.
Mary Sanger, according to her LinkedIn page, is currently senior vice president for academic affairs and deputy provost at The New School in Manhattan. Ms. Sanger, using the name M. Bryna Sanger, wrote a book in 2003, The Welfare Marketplace: Privatization and Welfare Reform, which the publisher described as a “provocative report [that] examines the trend toward competitive contracting of government functions.”
Both Mary Sanger and Alan Katz have been donors to The Jewish Center of the Hamptons. (Mr. Katz may have served on the board of the center at one point.)
Margot has a younger sister, Meredith, 30, who was married on July 26, 2014 to Jeffrey Nelson. Meredith works for a real estate private equity firm in Manhattan. Mr. Nelson works as an executive vice president for real estate transaction services at the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Margot’s aunt, Diane Sanger, died suddenly in December 2008 at the age of 55. She was an associate general counsel of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Diane’s husband is/was a dermatologist and her father – Margot’s maternal grandfather) was an allergist affiliated with New York’s Albert Einstein Hospital.
Margot’s paternal grandfather, Hyman I. Katz, was a cofounder with his brothers of Papercraft Corp, a consumer goods company known for its giftwrap and artificial Christmas trees. At its peak, Papercraft employed about 4,000 people, and its shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Hyman’s brother, Joseph, was known for his $10 million donation to the University of Pittsburgh, the school’s largest personal gift ever at the time.
(09/07): Writing about NASCAR for an article in the Concord Monitor, Ms. Sanger-Katz wrote: “I grew up in New York City in a family that was more New York Times than Daily News. By age 20, I had never attended a professional football, baseball or hockey game. I’m not very accomplished at throwing or catching. I’ve never been in a boat that wasn’t a ferry.”
Eventually, Ms. Sanger-Katz adds, she got hooked on NASCAR. “I told my New York friends about my love of NASCAR and got a lot of vacant looks and rolled eyes,” she wrote.
Photo (6/12): Ms. Sanger-Katz on MSNBC
(Research America – September 11, 2014): Ms. Sanger-Katz moderated a panel at the 2014 National Health Research Forum held at the Newseum in Washington D.C.
Ms. Sanger-Katz’s panel was titled, “What’s right – and wrong – with the research ecosystem.” Her panel members included: Janet Woodcock, M.D., director, Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research; Pablo Cagnoni, M.D., president, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, dean, University of Maryland, School of Medicine; and Robert Hugin, CEO and chairman, Celgene Corporation.
Her panel and two others were sponsored by Celgene, Johnson & Johnson and Onyx Pharmaceuticals. Other sponsors of the event included: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, University of Maryland, School of Medicine, Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, Genentech, Gilead Pharmaceuticals, Astellas Pharma U.S., Inc., Novartis Oncology, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company and Northeast Ohio Medical University.
A video of Ms. Sanger-Katz’s panel is available at: http://youtu.be/yHdezkUNhIg
(New York Times – May 29, 2014): In an internal memo, David Leonhardt, editor of The Upshot, introduced Ms. Sanger-Katz as his blog’s newest staff member. “I’m ecstatic about the idea of working with her,” he wrote – praise that is unusual even for an internal “welcome” memo. Mr. Leonhardt described Ms. Sanger-Katz as “one of the country’s sharpest health care writers.”
(National Journal – June 6, 2013): National Journal hosted an in-depth policy summit on the changing landscape of health care in the United States. Ms. Sanger-Katz served as a moderator. Panelists included Chet Burrell, president and CEO, CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield; Bruce Bagley, M.D., interim president and CEO, TransforMED; and Marci Nielsen, CEO, Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative.
(Columbia Journalism Review – September 18, 2012): Trudy Lieberman, a veteran health care reporter, wrote about Ms. Sanger-Katz in this respected journalism review.
Margot Sanger-Katz, a National Journal reporter who has been brave enough to question conventional wisdom surrounding health policy – she reported that elements of the Affordable Care Act “designed to lower costs will likely raise them instead” – has now taken a hard look at the claims and rhetoric sloshing around about vouchers lowering the government’s Medicare bill.”
Ms. Lieberman concluded her article writing:
Sanger-Katz has advanced the voucher discussion by exposing that the foundation and drive force for Medicare vouchers rests more on ideology than on hard evidence. The National Journal piece is a refreshing must-read, and we hope it comes up in the October 3 presidential debate on domestic policy.
(Association of Health Care Journalists – March 2013): Ms. Sanger-Katz was a panelist for a session titled, “Rich hospital, poor hospital: Stores of business survival.” The session was moderated by Phil Galewitz, senior correspondent, Kaiser Health News. Kate Walsh, president and CEO, Boston Medical Center was one of the other panelists.
(MSNBC – June 24, 2012): Ms. Sanger-Katz was a guest on Weekends with Alex Witt, where she discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, which was expected in the week to come. The interview is available on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/GQgtTRFIxZc
(C-SPAN – 2012): Ms. Sanger-Katz was twice a guest on C-Span, on April 24th and March 29th.
(Media Bistro – August 4, 2011): National Journal editor-in-chief, Ron Fournier, announced that he has hired Margot Sanger-Katz as the publication’s health care correspondent. She previously covered health care for the Concord Monitor, where she also wrote about Senator John McCain’s campaign during the 2008 presidential election.
(Yale Equestrian Team Newsletter – Fall 2005): This team newsletter bid a fond goodbye to Ms. Sanger-Katz, its head coach, who could no longer fill the post because she had accepted a job with the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire. The newsletter noted that Ms. Sanger-Katz first became head coach in 2003. Under her guidance, the 2004-2005 team “achieved its most successful season in team history.”
Research Conclusions (10/14): Our research found no evidence of any of the following: That Ms. Sanger-Katz is an officer of any journalism professional groups; won any individual journalism awards; is a regular guest on broadcast news or public affairs programs; has been involved in any journalism controversy of substance or has been the subject of a libel or defamation lawsuit.
© 2015 NewsBios. All Rights Reserved.