Frontlines Archive

A Major Victory for California Urology – SB 1215 Defeated

Thanks go to Dr. Eugene Rhee, CUA Past-president, for writing the following synopsis. Dr. Rhee played a pivotal role on the front lines of this effort.

On March 28, 2014 the CUA informed you of a most distressing California State Senate Bill, SB 1215 called “The Hernandez Bill” that was quietly & swiftly introduced in to the Senate by Senator Ed Hernandez, an optometrist who is the only “health care provider” in the California State Senate. He happens to be the Chair of the California Senate Health Committee and a member of the Business & Professions Committee which just had its hearing last Monday regarding the bill.  SB 1215 effectively eliminated most physician owned ancillary services previously protected by the In-Office Exception under the California patient referral law. This bill specifically mentioned Urology as a targeted example and as you might imagine, had potential long reaching ramifications for many other specialties such as GI, Cardiology, Orthopedics, and Dermatology. If passed, not only would California specialists be directly affected, but it would bolster the national argument to continue this mandate that started from the largest economic state power (California). In other words, the entire nation is watching. Patients’ access to care, quality of patient care and the fight for control of physician services were in extreme jeopardy.

The CUA, after conferring with its local state and national network, immediately formulated a double-pronged legislative strategy:

1) Quickly affirm position with our powerful state medical society, the California Medical Association (CMA), recognizing CMA’s past  influence on California state health policy through its powerful lobbying groups. The CMA quickly responded in support of the CUA and this became a formal “ask” to oppose SB 1215 during legislative day April 22, 2014 (The CUA had a full, central table at the CMA meeting attended by 600 doctors).

2) Activate the CUA Rapid Response Network once again (the last time was the CMA vaginal mesh resolution) to integrate local and national organizations (AUA, AACU, State Society Network, LUGPA, patient advocacy groups) on a grass roots advocacy campaign.

A more focused, lean strategy was implemented to actually quietly approach the Senate committee assigned to hear the bill, “The BP Nine” (9 state senators). The design of this strategy was quite frankly to kill this in committee before it could make it to the Senate floor for public debate. We joined, hand in hand with the California Integrated Physician Practice Coalition (CIPPC), a group quickly convened by Howard Rubin, Esq., with a particularly sophisticated California state lobbying group, and specialty medical groups from urology, GI, orthopedics, radiation and medical oncology. This Coalition, the CUA and the CMA worked together to educate the “BP Nine” about the serious threat to patient care posed by SB 1215. 

This integrated campaign strategy had lobbyists, urologists, patient groups, who contacted these senators through personal visits, other communique, and local medical society visits, voicing direct opposition to the bill, armed with data provided by LUGPA, AUA and AACU.

The BP hearing was Monday April 28, 2013. In the end, it was going to be too close to call and last minute calls and faxes were continually sent to the BP Nine. The CUA is pleased to announce proudly that The Hernandez Bill, SB 1215, was soundly defeated in committee, accomplishing the CUA goal for its members and patients.

It is because of the efforts of an organized coalition of many individuals and groups that this dangerous bill was defeated, recognized early in its birth. What we, at the executive leadership, implore everyone who reads this fascinating legislative journey is to understand that this will not be the last fight for urologists. There will be many more.

There also will be the California Urologic Association, the CUA, whose charter in 1986 was to represent urologic care in the California, broad in its scope. True to its mission, the CUA works hard to stop onerous regulation and legislation from interfering with its member’s ability to practice in the best interest of the patients. The process that took place to defeat SB 1215 should be positively recognized as an opportunity to solidify our relationships with many groups who have independent strengths that, collectively, can help with a common goal.

Continuing to be a member and serve the CUA in whatever capacity you can is critically important. Recruit others to join who represent all backgrounds of urologists to fulfill an obvious need to organize urology.

And finally, if you live in the 28th Senate District of the State of California, which covers Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West LA, Hollywood, Brentwood, Carson, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, etc. you must, as a dutiful soldier in urology, express to your patients to vote for Dr. Vito Imbasciani for state senate ( Vito is a former CUA president and a front runner in the primaries on June 3.   Any urologist anywhere should contribute to his campaign. His presence in the California State Senate as the only true doctor in the senate is crucial in our political fight for urology if we are to prevent this story from recurring.

Thank you all for your excellent, hard and unwavering efforts.

David Benjamin, MD, President,   Aaron Spitz, MD, President-Elect,   Eugene Rhee, MD, Immediate Past-President