Brown Signs Exchange Board Diversity Bill

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) yesterday signed a bill aimed at changing the face of the Covered California board of directors.

SB 972 by Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) doesn’t require new credentials for current board members, but rather expands the recruitment parameters for the board by encouraging recruitment of people with marketing, information technology and cultural-competency enrollment counseling skills — areas of expertise that cover some of the board’s shortcomings over the past year, according to Torres.

Yesterday’s signing of the diversity bill carries symbolic weight as well as the actual changes it brings to the makeup of the Covered California board. Critics blamed the board for missteps in Covered California’s effort to enroll Latinos — particularly online enrollment of Latinos.

Originally, Torres wanted to expand diversity on the board by adding two more members to the five-person board. That requirement threatened to stall the bill, so Torres agreed to take smaller steps to address possible knowledge gaps in the board.

SB 972, she said, “will allow Covered California to recruit board members who have experience solving the kinds of problems that the organization is faced with.”

Torres said Latinos account for about 58% of the uninsured population in California, but the total enrollment of Latinos in Covered California only hit 28% — and that was after a major effort in February and March helped raise those enrollment numbers.

“Diversifying Covered California’s board of directors is a step in the right direction to solving many of the problems that have created obstacles for consumers and families who are trying so hard right now to get health coverage,” Torres said. 

Last week the governor signed into law a plan to allow accelerated medical school graduation (three years instead of four) in an effort to address the physician shortage in California. Brown signed AB 1838 by Assembly member Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) Friday.

The Bonilla bill to allow accelerated graduation from medical school in California will not only pump more physicians into California’s medical system, Bonilla said, but it could also help those medical school graduates rack up less debt during a shortened medical school track.

The University of California system has six of the nine medical schools in the state. Its medical centers provide specialty training for nearly half of the state’s medical residents.

UC-Davis already has begun its new accelerated program — it enrolled its first class of four accelerated students in June. This bill will become law on Jan. 1, 2015 and the first graduates of the program could earn their medical degrees as soon as 2017.

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