The California Medical Association is petitioning (PDF)
the California State Supreme Court to overturn a March 30 state appellate decision concerning the state government's authority to borrow $6 million from a special fund used to finance the operations of the Medical Board of California.
The state borrowed the money—collected from physician fees—in 2008. According to the petition, the state government now owes 96 different special funds a total of nearly $2.65 billion, and the budget for fiscal 2011-12 calls for nearly $2.65 billion more in similar loans—including an additional $9 million from the medical board's fund.
The CMA filed suit in 2009, arguing that borrowing money from the fund takes away resources from the board and has created a backlog of physician license applications, according to a CMA news release
"As long as these fees continue to be diverted by Sacramento elected officials for the purpose of plugging California's perennial budget hole, we will be repeatedly refilling a gas tank with a massive leak—then wondering why the car isn't running,” said Dr. James Hinsdale, president of the 35,000-member CMA, in the release. "Taking more funds from the Medical Board of California harms all Californians."
According to the board's annual report (PDF)
, it collected $52 million for fiscal 2009-10, including almost $44.5 million in medical-license renewal fees and $5.3 million in initial license fees. The backlog of license applications not reviewed within 60 working days has been eliminated, according to the report.
The CMA said it disagrees with the appellate-court argument that the "the loan has not hindered the medical board's regulatory responsibilities." Apparently, so does the Public Citizen Health Research Group, which compiles an annual ranking
of state medical boards using a three-year average of medical-license revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations from each state to compile a Serious Actions per 1,000 Physicians index.
Last year, the Medical Board of California ranked (PDF)
41st out of 51 boards—one from each state plus the District of Columbia. California had 2.36 serious actions per 1,000 physicians, compared with 7.89 for Alaska's board, which ranked No. 1. California's board has had a steep decline in its ranking, finishing as high as 22nd in 2004 and as low as 43rd for 2008.
In fiscal 2009-10, the board received 6,539 complaints, of which 5,251 were closed by a "complaint unit," according to the report.