"What to Expect": Observing 40 Years of California's Song-Brown Act

Last Updated on April 16, 2022 by Lee Burnett, DO, FAAFP

The Californi Health Manpower Policy Commission's first report to the California Legislature
The California Health Manpower Policy Commission’s first report.

In 1974, a new governmental entity, the California Health Manpower Policy Commission commenced operations.

The commission was charged with the task of helping establish and expand family medicine residency programs (the oldest of which were not yet five years old).

Although the majority of states had enacted legislation in support of the newly recognized specialty of family medicine, California’s differed from the bills passed by other states in significant ways.

William H. Burnett, MA; Coastal Research Group
William H. Burnett, MA; Coastal Research Group

First, instead of providing “capitation” (i.e., a set amount per residency position) funding, the California program provided for competitive grant proposals from entities with accredited family medicine programs.

Second, the Commission was required to consider the degree pf success of each funded program in placing graduates in “areas of unmet need for primary care and family physicians”.

Third, the Commission was also tasked with supporting the funding of primary care physician assistant programs.

Marc E. Babitz, MD; USDHHS Bureau of Community Development
Marc E. Babitz, MD; State of Utah Department of Health

The amount of funding allocated to the program was less than was appropriated in several other states.

However, from the perspective of four decades, one can observe that the special features of the California legislation had a significant and generally positive effect on how family medicine evolved in California.

Over the years, the Song-Brown Act received bipartisan support.

The plenary panel’s participants

Jimmy H. Hara, MD; Charles R. Drew University, Los Angeles
Jimmy H. Hara, MD; Charles R. Drew University, Los Angeles

Three members of the National Conference faculty will discuss the Song-Brown Act.

William H. Burnett, MA and Marc E. Babitz, MD, both Senior Fellows of the National Conferences, were present at the beginning of the Act.

Mr Burnett was the California Health Manpower Policy Commission’s Principal Consultant. Dr Babitz was a member of the commission appointed by the Governor Ronald Reagan.

Also joining the plenary panel is Doctor Jimmy H. Hara, originally an appointee of Governor Pete Wilson, who served over 20 years on the commission during the governorships of Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.


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