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A look at the progress and potential pitfalls in California's $3 billion stem cell research program.

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A Contra Costa Times investigation finds that East Bay hospitals benefited from at least $81 million in tax breaks in 2005, while providing less than $43 million in charity care.

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As Congress goes into recession, the debate over healthcare hits home. But what's really happening on the reform front? Will it meet the needs of the American public? In a 5-hour special series over five days, we'll hear from doctors, hospital administrators, insurance companies, economists and average people about what's driving up healthcare costs, what it will take to make real changes, and what trade-offs people are willing to make to see meaningful reform through.

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Pia Christensen of the Association of Health Care Journalists responded to an earlier blog post that I had essentially ignored some good reporting on the Public Citizen report about how hospitals are failing in a very big way to report bad doctors to the National Practitioner Data Bank. She cited three stories, saying:

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

I recently wrote about the new National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network launched by the Centers for Disease Control. A fascinating resource for reporters, but molasses-slow at its debut.

I'm happy to report that after playing with the network again, the online database has recovered from its torpor, which might be explained by an estimated 10,000 hits upon its launch.

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The world’s best-selling drugs lower cholesterol, reduce heartburn and treat depression. Pharmaceutical companies rake in tens of billions of dollars a year (Lipitor alone brought in $13.6 billion in global sales in 2006) by reaching millions of patients in the and others abroad. Meanwhile, patients with rare diseases and lesser known conditions wait on better treatments as companies find ways to make a profit on their drugs.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Here's a quick roundup of recent articles localizing the potential impact of federal health reform and California's health budget cuts (see Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's additional $656 million in line-item vetoes here and the full California budget document here).

Picture of William Heisel

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the acting president of Public Citizen and the head of its Health Research Group, is a guy you don't want to have as an opponent. He has an encyclopedic command of the facts and a delivery that manages to be both gracious and a little intimidating.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Here's more coverage of the California budget cuts and their impact on health care, along with some new ideas for stories.

The general media consensus is that the state's Republicans won big in forcing major cuts in health and welfare programs, while Democrats are spinning their victory in saving the CalWORKS welfare program and the popular Healthy Families children's health insurance program from being eliminated outright.

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The nation’s overdose epidemic has entered a devastating new phase. Drugs laced with fentanyl and even more poisonous synthetics have flooded the streets, as the crisis spreads well beyond the rural, largely white communities that initially drew attention. The death rate is escalating twice as fast among Black people than among white people. This webinar will give journalists deep insights, fresh story ideas and practical tips for covering an epidemic that killed more than 107,000 people in the U.S. last year. Sign-up here!

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