President's Message: A critical year for health care

June 05, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership 

We haven’t quite hit the halfway mark, but 2015 is already shaping up to be an important year for health care.


In just these past few months, legislators have repealed the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR), saving physicians from an imminent 21 percent payment cut, and have considered an abundance of new bills aimed at solving several major health issues across the state.


The topic of health has been filling front-page headlines at every leading newspaper in California recently, reaffirming my belief that this is truly an exciting time to be practicing medicine.


The aforementioned repeal of the SGR was an enormous win not only for the California Medical Association (CMA) and our county medical societies, which fought alongside the American Medical Association in their advocacy efforts, but also for some of the country’s most vulnerable patients, who would have dealt with decreased access to care if not for Congress’ intervention. It took years of persistence and teamwork to eliminate the SGR, and I’m happy to report that that fortitude has finally paid off.


Now, we look to maintain that momentum through the remainder of the year, as we push for new laws that could change our profession and the future of healthcare.


Senate Bill 277, for example, would eliminate the personal belief exemption (PBE) from school vaccination requirements, ensuring our children’s safety by boosting immunization rates across California. The CMA-sponsored bill would play a vital role in protecting public health and stop the spread of preventable diseases. The bill, authored by CMA member Dr. Richard Pan and his colleague Senator Ben Allen, passed through the state Senate in May and is currently working its way through the Assembly.


I am optimistic that SB 277 will be met with the same positive response from legislators in the Assembly as it did in the Senate, but we must rise to the occasion and let our representatives know how important the bill is to the perseverance of public health. The tremendous amount of support the measure has received from both health and education organizations alike will undoubtedly help in that regard. News outlets big and small across the state have endorsed SB 277, as have local governments, elected officials, health care groups, education organizations and dozens more.



Just last month, many of CMA’s medical students and physicians joined forces at the California State Democratic Party convention in Anaheim to inform delegates there about the importance of removing the PBE option in favor of only medical exemptions. That work paid off, as the CDP took an official position to support the removal of PBEs.


With so many things, collaboration is often the key to finding success. Forging allies makes us stronger, which is why we must continue to pursue cooperative efforts with those who share our vision.


Earlier this year, we did just that by joining the Save Lives California Coalition to fight the dangers of tobacco use by advocating for a variety of bills. One of them, SB 591, would raise the tax on tobacco products by $2 per pack in California. Another, Assembly Bill 1396, would use the funds generated from SB 591 to create better access to health care by funding the state’s Medi-Cal program.


The coalition, composed of the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, CMA, SEIU California, the California Dental Association, Tobacco Free Kids and Health Access California, also filed two ballot initiatives last month that would let California voters decide for themselves if the tobacco tax should be raised. While the legislation remains a priority, CMA and the coalition are keeping all options open as we move toward a solution to reduce tobacco use among our youth and fully fund Medi-Cal.


If you haven’t had a chance to check out the campaign website or sign up to follow on social media, visit SaveLivesCalifornia.org today.


You may have also seen or heard ads on TV and radio that highlight the need to fully fund Medi-Cal. The We Care for California coalition, of which CMA is a member, has joined efforts with  SEIU United Healthcare Workers West and the California Hospital Association in a campaign to spread the word about who is impacted by cuts made to Medi-Cal in recent years. You can see more at the new website Medi-Calmatters.org. The coalition hosted a 5,000-person rally earlier this month to raise awareness about the need to fully fund Medi-Cal through a series of patient and provider stories. As emcee of the rally, I was honored to represent CMA on this important effort.  


Thank you all for your hard work and continued support. Working together as a united body will undoubtedly result in huge advances for the medical profession and the patients we see each day.


Luther F. Cobb, M.D.
CMA President


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