April 16, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy
Over 400 California Medical Association (CMA) member physicians, medical students and physician supporters gathered in Sacramento on April 16 to bring the voice of medicine to legislators. During CMA's 39th annual Legislative Leadership Conference, physicians discussed the many threats – and opportunities – facing the practice of medicine in California.
CMA President Paul Phinney, M.D., greeted attendees, saying “Today is the house of medicine coming together. It takes a little bit of help from a lot of people to make things happen.”
Assemblymember Richard Pan, M.D., also addressed the attendees, telling them how critical it is for legislators to hear the voice of organized medicine. But, he noted, “That voice is only as strong as all of your voices.” Dr. Pan emphasized that physicians bring a unique viewpoint to the Capitol, advising them when visiting with legislators later in the afternoon to “talk about what you do every day, in your practice – taking care of patients.”
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, one of the keynote speakers, told the crowd that “the issue of health care is the dominant challenge we face as it relates to balancing our [state] budget.” With the challenges posed by the Affordable Care Act, he said, “this is an interesting and enlivening time.”
Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, urged attendees to look broadly at the good the state health care exchange program will do for California and for the nation, rather than getting “trapped” in the day-to-day problems that might arise in the beginning.
“Think of January 2014 as a starting point,” said Lee. “When we look back 50 years to [the passage of] Medicare, we don’t look at the first months or at enrollment issues of that time [instead] we say, ‘this was the right thing to do.’ ”
After lunch, attendees were witness to the witticisms of former speaker of the California Assembly Fabian Nunez and newly elected chair of the California Republicans, Jim Brulte as they both talked about the future of politics in California and the nation.
When both were asked how physicians can influence the decisions of the state legislators, Nunez urged CMA members to visit their representatives in their districts rather than at the Capitol. “They are more relaxed in their district audiences. They will be able to listen” in the calm outside of the Capitol. Brulte suggested that physicians should talk with legislators in their treatment rooms. “Invite them to surgery and show them what you do.” Brulte talked about doing just such a thing and how it gave him a greater understanding of what physicians did and how they navigated the health care system.
After a morning of legislative briefings and guest speakers, the group headed to the Capitol to speak to their legislators about critical legislative issues affecting the practice of medicine in California.
“The political process is dynamic, rapidly changing and often enigmatic,” Ruth Haskins, M.D., the chair of CMA’s Council on Legislation, told attendees before they headed off to meet with their legislative leaders as champions for medicine and their patients. “Today you can influence medicine as it’s practiced in California.”
Among the issues discussed with legislators were physician workforce, scope of practice and the state budget, including the 10 percent cut to Medi-Cal payment rates.