The Yes on Proposition 29 campaign continues to receive a “digital boost” with the release of a new tongue-in-cheek ad campaign.
The video exposes the deceitful campaign being waged by Big Tobacco against the June 5 initiative that will raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by one dollar. This extra dollar will only be paid by those who purchase tobacco products. If you don’t smoke, you don’t pay. The extra dollar will fund life-saving research, keep kids from smoking and help smokers quit.
The edgy and compelling video challenges voters to look critically at Big Tobacco and its quest to defeat an initiative that is supported by SFMS, California Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association.
Prop 29, an initiative on the June 5 primary ballot, will raise the cost of a pack of cigarettes by one dollar and dedicate those new funds to cancer and other tobacco-related disease research and smoking cessation efforts. Written by the American Cancer Society in California, the American Heart Association, Western States Affiliate and the American Lung Association in California, Prop 29 is supported by the Lance Armstrong Foundation and doctors, scientists and researchers throughout California. Research shows that raising the cost of cigarettes by one dollar a pack will save 104,000 lives and stop 228,000 kids from smoking.
Medi-Cal primary care physicians will receive a two-year, $11 billion pay increase, under a proposal released last week by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The proposal, which implements a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would on average result in a 50 to 60 percent increase in Medi-Cal rates for primary care physicians, including family medicine, pediatrics and internists, plus related subspecialties. The ACA calls for Medicaid payments to primary care physicians to be raised to Medicare levels for 2013 and 2014.
The increase, effective in 2013 and 2014, bring Medicaid payments to primary care physicians in line with those for Medicare. Although Medicaid is jointly funded by states and the federal government, the increase would be paid for entirely by the feds.
“The payment increase proposed today will be an important tool for states to ensure their primary care networks are prepared for increased enrollment as the health care law is implemented,” said Marilyn Tavenner, Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in a statement issued last Wednesday. “Today’s action will help encourage primary care physicians to continue and expand their efforts to provide checkups, preventive screenings, vaccines and other care to Medicaid beneficiaries.”
SFMS/CMA have been working closely with CMS to ensure that the definition of primary care used is as broad as possible. We believe this two-year pay increase is a step in the right direction; however, it is critical that we find a long-term solution that will ensure that the influx of new Medi-Cal patients will be able to find a doctor.
SFMS/CMA believe the two-year pay bump will prevent many primary care physicians from leaving the program, but it may not be enough to attract new physicians. Some primary care physicians will not want to enroll in the program and establish patient relationships, only to have to pull out in two years and leave their patients, she says.
Currently, California’s rates rank 47th in the nation and are on average 50 percent below Medicare rates. Because of these low rates, two-thirds of California’s physicians cannot afford to participate in the program and more than 50 percent of Medi-Cal patients report they can’t find a doctor.
By Peter Curran, MD and Steve Heilig, MPH
What is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the nation? Tobacco. What is one proven way to reduce that harm and mitigate associated economic costs? Taxing tobacco, and using the money for tobacco-related research and other health-oriented purposes.
If only it were that simple. Actually, it is conclusively shown that higher tobacco taxes reduce use and provide funds for preventive and treatment efforts, but getting such taxes implemented is the complicated part. We call that “politics.”
Last year, the SFMS brought a policy to the CMA in support of the California Cancer Research Act, under the authorship of CMA trustee and former SFMS president Robert Margolin, MD. This policy was adopted, and CMA is now in support of Proposition 29, along with a long list of health organizations.
On the opposing side? The tobacco industry, of course, but in many guises. Here is just one example of one of its “front groups”: “Paid for by No on 29—Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending. Major funding by Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, with a coalition of taxpayers, small businesses, law enforcement, and labor.” The “coalition” mentioned consists of a variety of interests bought and paid for by tobacco funds—even associations like the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce have unfortunately been bribed with tobacco funds. Tobacco funds are paying for $15 million in television ads alone, and much more for anti-Proposition 29 propaganda, much of it recycled from previous specious arguments.
California now ranks thirty-third among states in taxing tobacco. Clearing the tobacco-funded smoke to get California voters to see the wisdom of Proposition 29 will not be easy. But we agree with the Sacramento Bee, which recently editorialized that, despite some reluctance about the initiative process in general, “the potential benefits of raising the tobacco tax outweigh the uncertainties posed by Prop. 29 governance. And that’s the bottom line. To discourage smoking and save lives, California must again raise the tobacco tax. It must again overcome the specious arguments and hired guns of the tobacco barons.”
Vote yes on Proposition 29.
This article appeared in the May 2012 San Francisco Medicine President's Column.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking costs Californian taxpayers $9 billion every year in health care costs, and much more in lost productivity. This translates into smoking-caused costs of $15 per pack of cigarettes. And yet, at just 87 cents per pack, California's tobacco tax is one of the lowest in the nation.
That doesn’t make sense and, this June, Californians have the chance to do something about it.
Prop 29, the California Cancer Research Act, will benefit every Californian by lowering health care costs in the state, by enhancing California's economy, and by funding life-saving research that produces new diagnostics, treatments and cures for patients.
By adding $1 tax per pack of cigarettes and equivalent tax on other tobacco products, Prop 29 will save an estimated 104,500 lives from premature smoking-caused deaths, prevent 228,700 children from becoming adult smokers and save Californian taxpayers an estimated $5.1 billion in long-term health costs from declines in smoking.
What’s more, passage of Prop 29 will generate $735 million per year in total revenue. This money will be used to fund life-saving research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases, and to support smoking cessation and prevention programs.
Please join SFMS, California Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, California Hospital Association, Stand Up to Cancer, and the University of California and vote YES on Prop 29.
As previously reported, CMA has received numerous complaints from physicians regarding Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s refusal to honor assignment of benefits, highlighting the burden and cost it places on the physician practice to act as debt collectors rather than physicians, and in many cases, this policy has jeopardized the physician-patient relationship.
To address this issue, CMA sponsored AB 1742 (Pan) to shore up this loophole and require Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the major PPOs currently refusing to honor assignment of benefits, to pay physicians directly for out of network services.
Representatives of Blue Cross and Blue Shield were asserting to the legislature a false claim that by removing the incentive of direct pay to the physician for out of network services, there would be a broad erosion of the PPO networks. In other words, they asserted that direct pay is the main reasons physicians decide to contract and if that option is removed, doctors will no longer contract with payors.
CMA/SFMS conducted a survey on criteria physicians consider before signing a contract to be in a payor network. We had an overwhelming response to the survey, gathering over 1,100 responses from physician practices in 43 different counties within a very short period of time. Through the survey results, we were able to highlight the following to the legislature:
Though this specific bill is still in the Assembly Health Committee for reconsideration after failing passage earlier this week, our effort to require Blue Cross and Blue Shield to honor assignment of benefits will continue. The survey results will also aid our legislative efforts in support of physicians and patients on various issues.
Click here to view the comprehensive survey results.