April 14, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Physician Leadership
Over 400 California Medical Association (CMA) member physicians, medical students and physician supporters gathered in Sacramento on April 13 to bring the voice of medicine to legislators. During CMA's 42nd annual Legislative Advocacy Day, physicians discussed the many threats – and opportunities – facing the practice of medicine in California.
The group also headed over to the Capitol in white coats to speak to their legislators about critical legislative issues affecting the practice of medicine in California. Among the issues discussed with legislators were: expanded training opportunities for primary care physicians in California, responsible beverage-service training to reduce drunk driving and out-of-network billing.
CMA President Steve Larson, M.D., greeted attendees, saying, “You are the heart of medicine and here to talk from your hearts to legislators. Legislators will remember your face and remember the stories you tell about how bills will affect you and your patients.”
Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes addressed the attendees after lunch, telling them that he understood the scope of practice issue from personal experience. “When I was 10 my mother chose to not go to a doctor, but instead sought help for the birth of my brother from an alternative practitioner. We received a call after the birth to find out she was in the hospital with a uterine infection that almost killed her,” Mayes said. “I understand there is a reason you receive such extensive training. I understand you are the ones that should be giving care to patients This is why it is so important that legislators hear your voice. If you do not lobby for your issues, someone else will lobby for something that could endanger the California (patient) population.”
With top Sacramento political consultant Jason Kinney moderating a panel of consultants for the Save Lives California Coalition, the group talked about the signature-gathering phase of the campaign. The initiative seeks to increase the state’s tobacco tax from its current $0.87 per pack – a rate that hasn’t been changed since 1998 – to $2.87 per pack. That tax will also apply to other tobacco products containing nicotine. The ballot measure will save lives and reduce teen smoking, as well as generate revenue for many of the state’s underfunded health care programs.
CMA, as a member of Save Lives California coalition, is currently collecting signatures to qualify the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 for the November ballot.
Jim DeBoo, Save Lives California campaign manager, encouraged attendees to get involved in the signature gathering process.
“Our goal is to get 150,000 signatures from volunteers like you,” said campaign manager Jim DeBoo. “In this way we get to meet voters where they are at and have them listen to the CMA membership explain what the initiative would do.” DeBoo also led the successful No on Proposition 46 campaign in 2014 that sent the trial lawyers' anti-MICRA initiative to a resounding defeat.
In March, the state Legislature approved a package of groundbreaking tobacco control bills that would increase the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and regulate the manufacture and sale of electronic cigarettes for the first time. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bills into law.
“These issues – smoking cessation and the lack of regulation of e-cigarettes – now have support with 60 percent of Californians,” DeBoo said. “We have a good chance to pass this initiative because of this support, the publicity surrounding the Legislature's actions and the potential for a large voter turnout for the presidential election.”