Keeping You Connected

The SBCMS keeps you up to date on the latest news,
policy developments, and events

SBCMS News/Media

California Medical Association's 2020 Legislative Wrap-Up

California’s Completely Unpredictable, Totally Chaotic Legislative Year
The California Medical Association’s 2020 Legislative Wrap Up

By Janus L. Norman, CMA Senior Vice President of Government and Political Relations

As 2019 concluded, reasonable assumptions about 2020 began to emerge. The year was expected to be busy and more polarizing due to the presidential election occurring in November. Large-scale issue-based campaigns calling for new state programs supported by the expected state budget surplus were being announced. State legislators were finalizing their legislative packages. And lastly, the California Medical Association (CMA) was preparing to defeat yet another attempt to eliminate the cap on non-economic damages incorporated in California’s long-standing professional liability reform law, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).

In March, the world changed, and California politics and the legislative process went through an unprecedented transformation.

On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in response to the arrival of the novel coronavirus (SARS-coV2) in California. All nonessential businesses, such as restaurants, entertainment centers/activities, etc., were immediately shut down until further notice. The State Legislature was forced to take multiple extended recesses, and all in-person lobbying was prohibited, leading to the cancellation of CMA’s annual Legislative Advocacy Day.

The legislative process was completely upended. CMA staff worked diligently to adjust to ever-changing dynamics, as both houses of the Legislature scrambled to implement social distancing guidelines and condense their calendars.

In the end, CMA successfully maintained state funding for physician services, defeated proposals to increase or add new administrative burdens onto physicians, and secured a number of Executive Orders to protect medical practices as they faced a pandemic unlike any seen in the past century.

However, CMA did not escape the legislative session unscathed. The legislature passed, and the governor signed AB 890 (Wood) AB 890 (Wood), which created two new classifications for nurse practitioners (NP). While this measure was passed into law, this matter is far from settled, as the fight to ensure patient safety now moves into the regulatory process. All of CMA’s advocacy centers have prioritized this issue, developed an action plan, and are coordinating with the American Medical Association (AMA) as well as various specialty associations to ensure the bill is implemented in a manner that protects patients and physician practices.

Budget – Access to Care

California began this year with a strong economy, historic reserves and a projected surplus of $5.6 billion. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s economy took a significant hit, which meant the Governor had to make several difficult decisions when revising his proposed budget in May.

The Governor’s May Revision was a complete redrafting of the state budget proposal released on January 10, 2020. In January, the budget proposal increased our state’s investment in health care, which included growing California’s physician workforce. The May Budget Revision, however, sought to reverse course, proposing to cut Proposition 56 funding for increased physician reimbursements, reduce patient benefits in Medi-Cal and strike all investments seeking to expand the physician workforce. Through the budget process in the Legislature, CMA was able to protect:

  • $1.2 billion$1.2 BILLION in Proposition 56 (tobacco tax) funding, which provides supplemental payments for physician and dental services, family health services, developmental screenings, non-emergency medical transportation and value-based payments. This includes the continuation of all future cohorts of the Proposition 56 Physician and Dentist Loan Repayment Program (years 2-5 of the 5-year program).
  • $1.5 million$1.5 MILLION in General Fund monies to maintain the Proposition 56 Graduate Medical Education program at an ongoing total of $40 million.
  • $33.3 million$33.3 MILLION in ongoing General Fund monies for the continuation of the Song-Brown Healthcare Workforce Training Program.
  • THE EXPANSION OF POST-PARTUM MENTHAL HEALTH SERVICES for individuals diagnosed with a maternal mental health condition.

Through the budget process in the Legislature, CMA was able to protect $1.2 billion in Proposition 56 (tobacco tax) funding, which provides supplemental payments for physician and dental services, family health services, developmental screenings, non-emergency medical transportation and value-based payments.

In addition, the revised budget proposal included a 47% increase to the Medical Board of California’s physician and surgeon licensing fee. Through CMA’s advocacy, the Legislature rejected that proposal. Still, the Legislature could revisit the discussion in 2021 when the Medical Board is subject to a review of all of its operations through the Sunset Review process. It is anticipated that the Medical Board will seek a license fee increase in the context of that process.

Surprise Billing – AB 72 Fix

Since the implementation of AB 72 (Bonta) related to surprise billing, CMA has been working with the Legislature to mitigate the negative impacts on the physician community. This year, AB 2157 (WOOD) was introduced to address the issues surrounding the independent dispute resolution process (IDRP). Along with several specialty societies, CMA was able to secure amendments that allowed physicians to provide more substantial evidence to better defend their claims during an AB 72 payment dispute. Through CMA’s advocacy in the legislative process and with the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) directly, an IDRP determination has been in the physician’s favor, a first since the law became effective. However, our work on this issue does not end there. CMA continues to work with regulators and legislators to further ensure a process that is fair and accessible to any physician needing to use it.

Public Health

Flavored tobacco products are often the entry point for young people who use tobacco. Over the last several years, a spike in e-cigarette use among the nation’s youth has been linked to targeted advertisements of flavored tobacco. Menthol cigarettes, sweet cigars, candy vapes and other flavored tobacco products serve one purpose: to mask tobacco’s harshness and get users hooked to a dangerous life-long addiction. In 2020, CMA combined forces with a large coalition of health care, youth and community organizations to support SB 793 (HILL), which prohibits tobacco retailers, or any tobacco retailers’ agents or employees, from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer. This ban includes e-cigarettes and vaping products, as well as traditional tobacco products. SB 793 crossed the legislative finish line and was quickly signed by Governor Newsom once it reached his desk. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2021.

Decreasing Administrative Burdens

CMA worked with Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez on AB 2257 to further address challenges for physician practices resulting from a bill passed last year (AB 5) that made significant changes to the definitions of independent contractors and employees, in an attempt to be consistent with the court decision in the Dynamex case. Last year, AB 5 included an exemption for physicians, but there continued to be a need to address business-to-business and referral agency arrangements. CMA successfully secured amendments to address those outstanding concerns, and the bill was signed into law.

CMA also helped lead a coalition to defeat SB 977 (MONNING), which sought to expand the California Attorney General’s existing authority related to mergers and acquisitions in the health care industry. Although CMA policy supports governmental actions designed to ensure hospital market competition, this broadly drafted legislation established a wide definition of health care transactions, which included leasing and other medical contracting arrangements. SB 977 ultimately failed to move off the Assembly floor.

CMA worked with Senator Dr. Richard Pan to exempt independent medical practices from the mandate, and secured physician involvement in future rulemaking and guidance on this issue and supply chain sustainability.

In addition to the above, CMA worked with multiple legislative offices to stop the creation of new administrative burdens related to the COVID-19 pandemic. AB 685 (REYES) requires employers to provide written notification within 24 hours to their employees if they were potentially exposed, at the workplace, to a person who has COVID-19. As this would have required physician practices to report this information daily, CMA secured amendments that exempted employees who conduct COVID-19 testing or screening or that provide direct care to individuals known to have tested positive for COVID-19. This approach balanced CMA’s support for notifying employees of possible exposure and protecting physician practices from being overburdened.

Senator Richard Pan, M.D., introduced legislation requiring the state and health care employers to procure a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a means of addressing future equipment shortages like the one experienced at the outset of the pandemic. As introduced, the bill would have created a significant burden on independent physician practices. CMA worked with Dr. Pan to exempt independent medical practices from the mandate and secured physician involvement in future rulemaking and guidance on this issue and supply chain sustainability.

Implementing Telehealth

At the onset of the statewide public health emergency, CMA worked to build upon AB 744 (AGUILAR-CURRY, 2019), which required commercial health plans to implement payment parity for services provided via telehealth. An association-wide advocacy effort allowed CMA to secure widespread payor coverage across the entire health care system that required all commercial, Medi-Cal and workers’ compensation payors to immediately cover telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services. To achieve this outcome, CMA worked with each independent agency and department to ensure consistency between the DMHC and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) as well as the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and employers under the Department of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). Each agency continued to post updated guidance consistent with CMA’s input, and often referenced CMA’s sponsored telehealth legislation (AB 744) as their models.

CMA also advocated for the Governor to waive existing laws requiring consent prior to providing telehealth services. During the COVID-19 state of emergency, these waivers ensure that no enforcement action would be authorized against covered health care providers providing telehealth services via remote communication technologies that may not fully comply with these privacy laws. CMA was successful in receiving these waivers at the state and federal levels.

Decreasing Liability for Medical Practices

CMA worked with a coalition of health care and other business organizations to defeat AB 2570 (STONE). This bill would have exposed physicians and their practices to frivolous lawsuits, making it more difficult for physicians to maintain the viability of their practices.

Scope of Practice

As discussed earlier, Assemblymember Jim Wood's AB 890 creates two new categories of nurse practitioners, who would be allowed to provide services without standardized procedures. Despite the fervent work of CMA, the AMA and numerous specialty societies, the bill passed the legislature and was enacted in law. The bill does not eliminate physician supervision and leaves room for interpretation regarding the role supervision can still play in the physician-NP relationship. It should also be noted that existing NPs are not impacted by AB 890 and must continue practicing under standardized procedures. In addition, the measure includes a delayed implementation of three years to allow for the completion of the regulatory process. A detailed factsheet on this bill can be found on the CMA website at

Despite this setback, the fight to protect patient safety will now roll into the regulatory process. CMA will continue to work in tandem with AMA and our grassroots network to keep physicians engaged on this issue.

CMA will always be in the midst of every critical political and legislative battle, utilizing our resources to advance an agenda that protects physician practices and empowers the physician voice.

In other scope developments, CMA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) resolved a long-standing issue with the certified nurse-midwives (CNM) through SB 1237 (DODD). This bill creates a framework for CNMs to perform certain functions within the scope of midwifery independently while maintaining a collaborative relationship with a physician and surgeon. The measure also includes a requirement for informed patient consent as well as patient outcome reporting requirements.

Uncertainty Continues

Although the 2019-2020 legislative session has finally concluded, uncertainty continues. In November, a new fiscal outlook will reveal whether the state budget is still facing a multi-billion shortfall. December will provide an idea of whether the Legislature will reopen the Capitol and allow for in-person lobbying. The political process will continue to be uncertain. However, there will be a consistent truth among all the unpredictable chaos: CMA will always be in the midst of every critical political and legislative battle, utilizing our resources to advance an agenda that protects physician practices and empowers the physician voice.

In unity,

Janus L. Norman
CMA Senior Vice President
Centers for Government Relations and Political Operations

For more details on the major bills that CMA followed this year, visit Subscribe to CMA’s free biweekly Newswire and stay informed on CMA’s legislative efforts and other issues critical to the practice of medicine at


Comments are closed.