SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The California Medical Association adopted a policy calling for the legalization of marijuana in order to conduct better research on its medicinal uses as well to better regulate its purity and to collect taxes on its sales to finance regulatory, enforcement and education activities. The policy is based on a white paper written by an advisory committee dedicated to the matter, which found that “the public movement toward legalization of medical cannabis has inappropriately placed physicians in the role of gatekeeper for public access” and that effective regulation requires federal action. The paper notes that if doctors were to “aid and abet or conspire” for a patient to receive medical marijuana, the feds could revoke their Drug Enforcement Administration registration, which allows them to prescribe controlled substances. Also, if a physician's prescription of medical marijuana results in a felony conviction, it would result in mandatory exclusion from Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, along with heroin and LSD, making clinical research “extremely difficult,” the paper noted. A spokeswoman said the CMA board of trustees adopted the policy “without objection,” and that there was not a recorded vote. The CMA has some 35,000 members and is the second-largest state physician organization, behind the 45,000-member Texas Medical Association.
Regional News/West: California Medical Association adopts policy calling for legalization of marijuana, and other news
SAN FRANCISCO—Blue Shield of California announced grants that totaled nearly $20 million for accountable care organization development. The insurer awarded the grants as part of the company's recent proposal to cap income to 2% of revenue and donate or return to customers anything beyond that amount. That pledge followed a request from the California Department of Managed Health Care for information about individual rate increases that averaged 37.5%, though the insurer declared the two unrelated. Grants were awarded to 18 organizations, including medical groups, hospitals, health systems and health information exchange developers. Blue Shield of California said the insurer set aside $10 million for the accountable care grants for each of the fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Last week, the insurer announced $295 million to be refunded to customers or its community, based on estimated fiscal 2011 earnings.
RENO, Nev.— Catholic Healthcare West has entered into “exclusive negotiations” to sell financially struggling St. Mary's Regional Medical Center to for-profit Community Health Systems, according to a CHW statement. St. Mary's, with 269 staffed beds, is less than half the size of its downtown Reno rival, 546-bed Renown Regional Medical Center, owned by the locally based Renown Health system. “For several months, CHW has been working to identify a potential partner to help St. Mary's preserve and strengthen healthcare services in the region,” according to a statement attributed to Rod Davis, senior vice president for operations at Catholic Healthcare West in Nevada. St. Mary's is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, Calif., who must approve a possible sale along with the CHW board of directors, if the sale proceeds, which could happen by early 2012, according to the statement. For the first two quarters of 2011, St. Mary's reported a net loss of almost $19.9 million on about $130.9 million in total operating revenue, according to the Center for Health Information Analysis at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, which gathers financial data on all hospitals in the state. “The economy is worse here, way worse, than the rest of the country,” with real unemployment rates running around 17% to 18%, said Joseph Greenway, the center's director.
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