CMA Capitol Insight provides irreverent view of California politics

February 06, 2011
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy 

The California Medical Association (CMA), committed to keeping its members informed of the latest developments in health care policy and the politics affecting it, has launched a new biweekly column by veteran journalist Greg Lucas to report on the inner workings of the state Legislature.

Titled "CMA Capitol Insight," The column debuted on Jan. 18. Lucas, who covered the state Capitol for 19 years as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, is known for his wit and high-placed sources.

"For those of you who have walked the halls of the California state Capitol, you know it is akin to visiting a foreign land, with an equally foreign language," CMA CEO Dustin Corcoran wrote, in his introduction to the column. "We hope you garner a new perspective and that you have a laugh or two in the process."

In his Jan. 31 column, Lucas wrote:

"And Speaking of Wild Bill (State Treasurer Bill Lockyer)...He was one of the signatories of 1987's famous - some would add the prefix "in" - Napkin Deal." Lockyer, then Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and representatives of trial lawyers, the CMA, insurers, the tobacco industry and others cooked up their compromise at Frank Fat's restaurant, a legendary downtown Sacramento eatery. The deal's key points were written with a Sharpie on a napkin. a poster commemorates it in Fat's foyer. The deal was aimed at averting a DefCon 1 ballot box dust-up over medical liability issues. What was important to doctors is that it preserved the existing liability structure - the Medical Insurance Compensation Reform Act - for an additional five years. The law, MICRA, was then - and still very much is now - something the trial lawyers would like to see go the way of statewide Republican officeholders: Extinction. Trial lawyers routinely trumpet that MICRA's $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages is worth only about $72,000 in today's dollars. MICRA was signed into law in 1975. It was the product of a special session of the Legislature called by then governor Jerry Brown to address what he called the "malpractice crisis." Yup. Jerry Brown. Rumors persist that, this go-round, Brown has privately committed to doubling the cap. Has to get through the Legislature first, though. Combatants are already locked and loaded."

Look for Lucas's next column on Feb. 14.


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