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Here's a recap of the latest developments on the health reform front, along with some helpful resources and story ideas for your community.

March 21, 2010, 10 p.m. PST

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One question that’s getting lost in all the chatter after Scott Brown’s historic election and Nancy Pelosi ‘s defeated comments on health reform today is what’s going to happen to the concessions that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries offered last year as serious reform discussions were just getting underway.  The Wall St.

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Safety net hospitals are a crucial part of the country's health care system. A safety net hospital is a hospital that serves substantially more uninsured patients and patients enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare than other hospitals. Often the term is used interchangeably with the term public hospital, an acute care hospital owned by a governmental entity, usually the county in which it's situated.

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On Tuesday, I posted the first half of my “Top 10 list” of noteworthy health journalism. Here’s the second half. It bears repeating: this definitely isn’t a best-of list, and admittedly, it’s print-centric. There’s lots of excellent work out there that I didn’t have a chance to read or view or listen to. But the five stories below are worth reading, and learning from.

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Robert Steinback is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Miami Herald columnist who was laid off in 2008. His COBRA health insurance ends in January, and, because he has diabetes, no insurer will offer him an individual policy. Other alternatives, such as a HIPAA policy, are prohibitive

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It sometimes seems like it takes a high-profile case like Terri Schiavo to get people to think about end-of-life issues – or editors to agree to stories on the topic.

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Perplexed by the unusually high rates she was paying for her employer-provided health insurance, NPR member station reporter Sarah Varney set out to better understand the system. She discovered that small companies' rates are dictated by the demographics of their work force — and when the work force is small, it can spell complications, higher prices or both.

Click here to hear the full story on NPR's Morning Edition

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Before describing a few stories that have not received much play in the media, I'd like to mention a few publications by my Urban Institute colleagues that provide useful state and local information. One report shows, by Congressional district, the proportion of residents with various types of health coverage (uninsured, privately insured, or covered by Medicaid or other public programs).

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Between 2001 and 2006, the number of visits paid to emergency rooms in the United States increased annually by nearly 12 million, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released in April 2009. In addition, the average time ER patients waited before being seen by a physician rose from 46 minutes in 2003 to 56 minutes in 2006. Although fewer hospitals reported having to divert ambulances to other facilities because of overcrowding, those that did reported spending more hours on average on diversion.

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Stan Dorn, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, says that in the game of health care reform legislation, "We are in the playoffs."

The players are largely Democrats and the few Republicans who are not opposing reforms outright. Here is a roundup of the agreements and debates in Washington, D.C., as well as a few story ideas, which Dorn outlined in this morning's seminar with the National Health Journalism Fellows.

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