April 17, 2013
Two pieces of legislation aimed at increasing California’s physician workforce are inching toward the Assembly floor, after passing out of Assembly Health Committee earlier this week.
The bills, AB 565 and AB 1176, are part of a larger legislative package being backed by the California Medical Association to help remedy the state’s ongoing physician shortage in anticipation of millions of newly insured patients entering the health care system as the Affordable Care Act is implemented in California.
The first bill, AB 565, is authored by Assembly member Rudy Salas (D – Bakersfield) aims to expand and strengthen the Steve Thompson Loan Repayment program, which for more than a decade has offered medical school loan repayment grants of up to $105,000 to physicians practicing in medically underserved areas of the state.
Specifically, the bill would give priority application consideration to physicians who have spent three or more years practicing in medically underserved areas of the state. It would also expand eligibility to include private physician practices whose patient volume consists of at least 30 percent uninsured, Medi-Cal or other public program patients.
The bill passed out of the committee with unanimous support.
The second bill, AB 1176, is jointly authored by Assembly members Raul Bocanegra (D – Pacoima) and Rob Bonta (D – Alameda) and would assess a $6 fee on insurers for every covered life on their rolls and use the funds to expand or create new residency slots in California.
The bill’s authors note that an overwhelming majority of residents ultimately establish a practice in the state where they completed their residency training and that California is doing itself a disservice by forcing California-educated physicians to seek programs in other states.
AB 1176 passed out of the committee on with a 10-5 vote.