Education Lab

No UC Merced med school funds in Senate bill

WASHINGTON -- A 2,074-page health-care bill unveiled in the Senate this week omits funding for proposed medical schools at the University of California at Merced and other institutions.

So now the Capitol Hill maneuvering on behalf of the proposed medical school gets more complicated. Lawmakers must choose tactics. Lobbyists must track language, where a few words mean the difference between success and failure.

"There's going to be a very strong push for this," Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said Thursday.

The massive Senate health-care package made public Wednesday night is the counterpart to a 2,000-plus page bill narrowly approved by the House two weeks ago. In many respects, they are similar. One difference, though, matters in particular to UC Merced and San Joaquin Valley lawmakers.

At the insistence of Cardoza and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, the House bill included a provision authorizing $500 million for developing medical schools in medically underserved areas. The money could be used for construction, equipment, faculty development and the like.

The Senate bill lacks this language.

David Brown, director of health and clinical affairs for the University of California, said the House language authored by Costa and Cardoza "came on our radar screen prior to the House vote, but not much prior."

Brown added that though "we would like to see this provision in the Senate bill," it has not been the highest priority for the university system, whose hospitals could be greatly affected by the health-care bill's broader cost implications.

"We have a lot of other issues in that bill that we're tracking," Brown noted.

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