October 07, 2013
Five bills sponsored by the California Medical Association (CMA) have been signed into law.
Physician Workforce – Medically-Underserved Communities (AB 1288): This CMA-sponsored bill requires priority review status be given to the license applications of physicians who can demonstrate that they intend to practice in a medically-underserved area or serve a medically-underserved population. With California facing an uneven disbursement of physicians, increasing the physician pipeline to those areas to ensure delivery of safe, quality medical care will be crucial to the health of those communities. The new license processing requirements will apply to both the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Board of California.
California Physician Corps Program (AB 565): This CMA-sponsored bill will refine the eligibility criteria for a successful physician retention program, the Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program. The program provides grants of up to $105,000 to physicians who agree to practice in medically-underserved areas of the state for at least three years. This bill will modify eligibility to ensure that individuals providing health care services, such as working in a clinic or other patient care settings, are prioritized over other types of services. It will also give preference to applicants who commit to serving an underserved population that is located in a federally designed shortage area, ensuring the most dire shortages are given priority.
UC Riverside Medical School (SB 21): The 2013-14 state budget included a $15 million annual appropriation to fully fund the University of California Riverside (UCR) School of Medicine. The Inland Empire, including Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, is experiencing the lowest supply of physicians per capital than any other region of the state. Allocating a continuous funding source for the UCR medical school helps to ensure that more physicians are graduating medical school and practicing in the communities where they’ve been educated. SB 21 takes it a step further, by requiring the UCR School of Medicine to identify eligible medical residents and assist them with applying to physician retention programs, including the successful Steve Thompson Loan Repayment Program.
Emergency Room Funding (SB 191):CMA and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) cosponsored a bill that will extend funding for the Maddy Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Fund. This fund is used to offset the costs incurred for care provided to uninsured patients in hospital emergency rooms. Without this bill, the law that authorizes the Maddy Fund is set to expire on January 1, 2014.
Employment of Physical Therapists (AB 1000): This CMA-sponsored bill would clarify an existing ambiguity in the law so that physical therapists can continue to work within the legal boundaries of medical corporations as they have for decades. The bill also gives health care consumers the ability to seek treatment from a physical therapist without a physicians’ consent for a limited period of time.
CURES Database (SB 809): Gov. Brown also signed into law a CMA-supported bill that will provide funding for ongoing maintenance and staffing of the Controlled Substances and Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES). CURES is an online database that allows authorized users, including physicians, pharmacists, law enforcement and regulatory boards, to access information about a patient’s controlled substance prescription history. The new law will provide roughly $1.5 million to maintain the database. The bill builds on funding provided through the 2013 budget to upgrade the system.