Governor Addresses Medical Association

Governor Jerry Brown had a relatively genial chat with medical students and physicians yesterday at the California Medical Association’s annual Legislative Day.

“I don’t know why so many of you have come here today,” Brown said. “I hope you’re not supposed to be taking care of patients.”

During his short speech, he talked almost exclusively about the budget, and the need to find a solution that doesn’t cripple California.

“Breakdown is not unexpected, it’s just part of the bargain,” Brown said. “But breakdowns do lead to breakthroughs. It’s just a matter of having patience and a certain degree of creativity.”

According to Dustin Corcoran, the medical association’s CEO, if a breakthrough doesn’t happen soon and the state has to cut another $13.5 billion from its budget, those cuts are likely to include California’s schools, and possibly its medical schools.

“Our deficit is bigger than most other states’ budgets,” Corcoran said. “If you divided the $26 billion deficit among all Californians, it would be $702 for every person in California. That’s just amazing.”

So far, the Legislature has cut $12.5 billion of that deficit, roughly half of it on the back of health and human services programs. Brown wants voters to approve tax extensions to pay the bulk of the rest of it, but Republican lawmakers have been blocking that ballot measure idea.

“My fear is how is this going to affect California’s universities, its medical schools, its university hospitals,” Corcoran said. “What we don’t want is to be shutting down campuses. I want tuition not to go through the roof, I want the provider pipeline to not be totally eliminated.”

If tax extensions are not approved by voters, he said, the stark reality is that $13.5 billion more in budget cuts would mean massive hits to education.

“Just to give you an idea,” he said, “if we shut down every California university campus, every state medical school, every CSU, that would be about $13 billion.” In that climate, he said, it’s unlikely that any California schools would be spared cuts.

“It’s not a question of how are we going to save everything in health care,” Corcoran said. “It’s a question of how much are we going to be able to mitigate that damage.”

Brown is about to embark on a tour of the state, where he plans to spell out what the budget cuts might look like, if tax extensions are not put on the ballot and then approved by voters.

For the CMA event, Brown tried to focus on the wide view of the budget mess.

“We do have a little problem with about $13.5 billion. And this whole water thing, how we’re going to get water to Los Angeles. But other than that, I think it’s clear sailing.”

Brown said he’s hopeful the state will be able to solve its fiscal crisis in due time.

“So don’t worry about the government,” Brown said. “I’ve got it under control. You take care of your patients, and I’ll take care of the body politic.”

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