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When a major insurance company goes under in California's strained healthcare system, the reverberations run deep.

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I wrote a post earlier this week about a Nieman Reports article by Dr. John Abramson, a clinical instructor at Harvard and outspoken critic of the pharmaceutical industry. After serving in the National Health Service Corps, Abramson worked as a family physician for 20 years in Massachusetts.

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Dr. Neil Hollander of Huntington Beach, Calif., looked to be just another doctor who had misplaced his notes in November 2003 when he agreed to settle a Medical Board of California case by taking a record keeping course.

Picture of William Heisel

Public hospitals have been closing at an alarming rate. Last month, the troubled Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center in Los Angeles announced it was preparing to reopen after years of quality concerns, but it has lived on the precipice for more than two decades.

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Six of the world's biggest drug companies are about to be winnowed down to three. If all the mergers go through, we will have Pfizer-Wyeth, Merck-Schering-Plough and Roche-Genentech controlling more than $100 billion in drug sales every year - amounting to one seventh of all revenues for drug companies worldwide. (I wrote a story about this a couple weeks ago for the Los Angeles Times.)

Picture of William Heisel

This UCI orthopedic surgeon is on the shortlist for the U.S. Surgeon General job. He has been an outspoken critic of medical device companies and is fighting to limit the influence of money on medicine.

Here is a recap of our conversation:

Q: You were in Washington last year testifying before Congress about doctors who are paid by companies to put in certain medical devices. Did they understand why you were so concerned about this?

Picture of William Heisel

The transaction was quick.

In the parking lot of a pastry shop, a patient handed Dr. Kachun ClementYeung $400. Yeung handed the patient a prescription for 800 milligrams of OxyContin. It took less than five minutes.

The exchange was part of 23,000 milligrams worth of the addictive painkiller that Yeung prescribed to patients who were never properly diagnosed with chronic pain during a 168 day period in 2002.

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Americans' penchant for rating everything from tech gadgets to restaurants to professional services online - sometimes in novella-length missives - is extending to health care professionals, and entrepreneurs nationwide are cashing in on the trend.

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Health care reporters know how rarely hospitals suspend a doctor's privileges. Those rights are granted and revoked by other doctors, and doctors are loathe to set a precedent by saying a botched surgery or missed diagnosis should bar a doctor for life.



That's why it was a big deal when the Reston Hospital Center in Virginia took away Dr. Bahram Tafreshi Moshiri's right to practice there in November 2001.

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One would think that everything that could possibly be said about lead poisoning has been printed, broadcast and e-mailed around the globe countless times.

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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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