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One way to help solve the doctor shortage

March 10, 2010

California is experiencing a worsening shortage of doctors in rural and low-income communities, in part because of decades-old laws that no longer serve our needs. I have worked as a “country doctor” for 22 years. It’s the kind of work I always wanted to do, but it’s a tough sell for younger doctors today – even for those who see it as their professional calling. College and medical school tuition and subsequent debt are exorbitant. More patients in rural communities are uninsured or on Medi-Cal than privately insured. The doctors who treat them are routinely paid less than half of the cost of care.

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Using medical efficiency to drive down California’s health care costs

March 5, 2010

The news has been full of stories in recent weeks of how Anthem Blue Cross has been trying to increase health insurance premiums by as much as 39 percent for some people who buy insurance on their own, outside of the kind of group coverage a person gets from an employer. Almost entirely unnoticed, meanwhile, has been a more newsworthy development: in a time when medical costs have been rising rapidly, premiums for many public sector workers enrolled in a Blue Shield of California HMO have actually gone down.

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Stem cell agency facing new challenges

March 2, 2010

A little more than five years ago, visions of seemingly magical stem cell cures danced in the minds of California voters. Lured by the promise of human embryonic stem cells and the intransigence of the Bush administration, Californians voted to borrow $3 billion and give it away to scientists to come up with therapies for ailments ranging from Alzheimer’s to diabetes. In approving Prop. 71, voters repudiated the Bush administration ban on funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The voter initiative also created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, an enterprise unlike any in state history and one that is uniquely independent of the governor and the legislature. It is also an agency that is facing a new set of challenges as it enters its second five years of existence.

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Budget would cut support for seniors

February 25, 2010

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for the coming year has serious implications for California’s low-income seniors.
According to a recent analysis by the UCLA Center for Health Policy, the proposal would dismantle California’s home- and community-based long-term care system. Full implementation of the proposed cuts would likely leave frail, low-income seniors – among the state’s most vulnerable residents – without needed support.

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The Emerging Strawberry Crisis: Innovate or Else

February 16, 2010

Sitting before a panel of legislators, a Santa Cruz area farmer recently compared the potential fate of California’s strawberry industry to the current state of American automakers. He argued that if agriculture doesn’t innovate, it faces a bumpy road ahead. And, he argued, that the decisions of regulators today will create the roadmap for the future of farming. It’s no easy task–the direction of the state’s agriculture system is at stake. One set of choices sets us down the road of producing food that continues to poison humans and contaminate our soil, water and air; the other turns a corner to widespread adoption of methods that, though they are more sophisticated and foreign to most conventional growers, produce safe and healthy food for all.

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Babies, bathwater and billions

February 14, 2010

If someone handed Governor Schwarzenegger a check for a billion dollars, you probably wouldn’t expect him to tear it up or send it to Washington, D.C. to give to other states. But that’s exactly what he has proposed doing in his FY 2010/11 budget. And his budget would toss a million children’s reliable health care overboard at the same time.

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In health and human services, demand grows while funds shrink

February 14, 2010

California enters 2010 in extraordinary fiscal circumstances, with a significant structural budget deficit that continues to require spending reductions in all areas of state government. At the same time, caseloads in our state’s biggest health and human services programs have grown dramatically in recent years, a reflection of both policy decisions to support the state’s safety net as well as the more recent dramatic economic downturn.

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