Karen Shakerdge

Reporter/Producer - Health

Karen Shakerdge covers health for WXXI News. She has spent the past decade asking people questions about their lives, as a documentary film producer, oral historian and now radio reporter.

Karen spent months producing Exited, a podcast about young people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities navigating life after high school, which she developed with colleagues at NPR’s Story Lab.  

Karen has a bachelor's degree in cultural studies and media studies from The New School and a master's degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

In 2016, the Association of Health Care Journalists recognized her story about liver transplantation with an Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. Her two-part story about donor breast milk banks received an Outstanding Public Affairs Program award from the New York State Broadcasters Association in 2017. 

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has updated coverage guidelines for infertility treatment that could be especially significant for single women and same sex couples.

A letter sent to insurance companies clarifies that all patients – regardless of sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity - are entitled to infertility treatment coverage.

The Department of Financial Services has slapped Excellus Health Plans with a $1 million fine for multiple violations of New York insurance law.

For one, Excellus incorrectly denied 1,000 claims for contraceptive coverage, according to the Department of Financial Services, due to “internal system and process errors.”  DFS also found that Excellus failed to pay or deny claims promptly and acknowledge consumer grievances within required time frames.  

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI

One disability rights activist says that often people are too quick to assume someone with a disability can’t make their own decisions. Emily Ladau, a writer and editor in chief of the Rooted in Rights blog, visited Rochester recently to raise awareness about a different way of thinking called self-direction.

Last week the Supreme Court unanimously ruled on a case that some say may change special education.

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI

Mary Rivera knew something wasn’t right, but she still didn’t go to the doctor.

“I knew that my uterus wasn’t where it should've been, but I didn’t have any insurance at the time. To go to the hospital and have an operation seemed impossible,” Rivera said from her home in Manchester, New York.

On her living room wall, photographs of her three daughters are neatly framed. She raised all of them in the house, and she says that’s what kept her from going to the doctor. She was scared of the bills, not being able to pay them, and the possibility of losing their home.


The National Institutes of Health could face some major changes if the proposed budget from the Trump administration released earlier this week progresses. The budget calls for a $5.8 billion cut to NIH funding, 20 percent less than what it currently receives.

Major changes in the amount of money the NIH receive could mean changes for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, but receives 70 percent of its funding from the National Institutes of Health.


One of the biggest proposed changes in the ACA repeal bill is about Medicaid. Medicaid now functions on a per person basis. If you qualify, you get it. But in the bill released earlier this week, lawmakers have proposed changing over to a block grant program. That means each state gets a fixed amount of money. If the population that needs Medicaid grows or shrinks, that amount of money remains the same.

Courtesy Mike Groll

Religious leaders gathered in Albany to show their support for aid in dying legislation. The event was part of a larger campaign advocating for terminally ill patients to have the right to ask for medical assistance to die.

Reverend Richard Gilbert, a retired minister of the First Unitarian Church in Rochester, spoke at the rally.  

Karen Shakerdge/WXXI

For community health centers, the Affordable Care Act has brought significant financial changes. For one, more insured patients show up for care, which brings higher reimbursement rates to clinics. But centers, like Jordan Health, have also benefited from the government pumping more money into the section 330 grant.

“The number of folks that we now have added to the team to make sure that our patient is healthier has been major,” says Dr. Janice Harbin, president and CEO of Jordan Health, a community health center with 10 locations throughout Rochester and Canandaigua.

The window to sign up for health insurance through the New York state Marketplace has come to a close.

Even though there are lots of questions about what may happen to the current health care system - the marketplace was busier than ever.

In the final two days of the open enrollment period just over 45,000 New Yorkers signed up for health insurance.

January 31st - the deadline to sign up was the busiest day ever for the Marketplace’s website - with nearly 3 million page views.