Sophie Novack

Sophie Novack is a staff writer at the Observer covering public health. She previously covered health care policy and politics at National Journal in Washington, D.C. You can contact her at [email protected].


A radiography room in a hospital.
Health Care

Everyone Wants to End Surprise Medical Billing in Texas, but No One Wants to Pay for It

New patient protections go into effect January 1, but a last-minute rulemaking controversy illustrates how hard it is to fix even a relatively narrow health care problem.

Patient advocates in Texas celebrated this spring, when they finally hit a major milestone in the decade-long fight against surprise medical bills. Amid a flood of media attention spotlighting patients who had been hit with astronomical hospital charges for procedures they … Read More

Carole Ward, a former nurse practitioner, ran the Memphis health clinic until she retired in 2017.
Health Care

The Last Nurse in Memphis, Texas

Carole Ward, a former nurse practitioner, ran the only health clinic in a small town in the Panhandle until she retired in 2017.

This story is part of “Critical Condition,” a series investigating Texas’ rural health care crisis. Read Part 1 here. Carole Ward, a 66-year-old nurse practitioner who lives in Hedley, ran the Memphis health clinic from 2005 until she retired and the clinic … Read More

The Memphis health clinic shuttered in 2017, making it harder for Yolanda Narvaez, right, and her husband, Angel, to access care.
Health Care

Driving My Life Away

As physicians leave small towns, rural Texans must travel farther and farther for health care.

Critical Condition: Part 2 Driving My Life Away As physicians leave small towns, rural Texans must travel farther and farther for health care. + + + by Christopher Collins and Sophie Novack November 18, 2019  Yolanda Narvaez knew something … Read More

Henry Wilson, right, jacked up his storm-damaged house with his friend, Lester Owens, left. Wilson has lived in a trailer next to the house for the past two years.
Texas Politics

‘You Can Only Take So Much’: Low-Income Hurricane Harvey Survivors Sue Over ‘Discriminatory’ Recovery Process

The lawsuit accuses state and federal officials of favoring wealthier, white homeowners over poorer black and Hispanic renters.

Former city council member John Beard has a term to describe Port Arthur residents. In his Gulf Coast city of 55,000, people have all but given up on getting the help they need to recover from the storm that damaged … Read More

The clinic attached to the hospital is staying open for now.
Health Care

Scenes from a Rural Hospital’s Final Day

Chillicothe Hospital closed its doors on July 22. Its closure reverberated through the community in both expected and surprising ways.

This story is part of “Critical Condition,” a series investigating Texas’ rural health care crisis. Read Part 1 here. Inside a tiny frontier hospital at the Texas Panhandle’s southern boundary, Judy Borton is hunched over the same gas stovetop that … Read More

Boxes of program and audit records filling one exam room.
Health Care

State Investigators Identify ‘Serious Contractual Violations’ by the Heidi Group

A new report from the health inspector general says the Heidi Group, an anti-abortion group tapped to replace Planned Parenthood in state family planning programs, misused taxpayer funds, and calls for an expanded investigation of the group’s contracts.

State investigators now say an anti-abortion group tapped to replace Planned Parenthood in Texas’ reproductive health programs must repay nearly $1.6 million amid “serious contractual violations.” That tab could still go much higher. In a long-awaited report released Thursday, investigators … Read More

Health Care

Critical Condition

Rural health care is in crisis around the country, but Texas is suffering the most. At least 20 small-town hospitals have closed since 2013.

a Texas Observer Special Investigation Critical Condition Rural health care is in crisis around the country, but Texas is suffering the most. At least 20 small-town hospitals have closed since 2013. More than one-fifth of Texas’ 254 counties have only … Read More

The now-vacant hospital in Mount Vernon.
Health Care

A Dying Town

When a rural hospital dies, the community around it starts to follow suit.

Critical Condition: part 1 A Dying Town When a rural hospital dies, the community around it starts to follow suit. + + + by Christopher Collins and Sophie Novack November 4, 2019  On the evening of December 28, 2014, … Read More

Pro-choice protesters chant outside the Senate chamber
Health Care

The Supreme Court Taking Up Louisiana’s Abortion Case ‘Flies in the Face of Precedent’

Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, won a major victory against a Texas anti-abortion law at the U.S. Supreme Court three years ago. In an interview, she talks about the recent case coming out of Louisiana and what it means for abortion rights in the U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case against a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—nearly identical to requirements under Texas’ House Bill 2 that the Supreme Court struck … Read More

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