Dustin Corcoran, the California Medical Association’s top lobbyist

At 31, Dustin Corcoran is one of the youngest lobbyists in Sacramento–and
arguably one of the most powerful.

Corcoran is the California Medical Association’s vice president for
government relations, a fancy title that means he is the head lobbyist for
the CMA’s 35,000 doctors. He’s not the CMA’s only lobbyist–the group’s
contract lobbyists include veteran advocate Aaron Read–but he is the point
person on the staff charged with making sure that the CMA’s goals get a
favorable response in a balky Legislature and in the governor’s office.

Corcoran’s on-the-job training was hard to beat: He came to the CMA in 1998
and learned his craft from the late Steve Thompson, the CMA’s long-time
lobbyist and one of the Capitol’s major power players. Thompson was the
driving force behind a sweeping, employer-financed health care plan that was
finally approved by the Legislature and governor after a ferocious political
fight, but then was rejected by voters in November 2004 as Proposition 72.
“He was my mentor in every sense of the word. I loved working for him. He
taught me politics and policy,” Corcoran says. After Thompson died last
year, CMA President Jack Lewin picked Corcoran to replace him.

The aftertaste of Proposition 72’s defeat lingers at the CMA, and it is
unlikely that the CMA will back a similar plan–at least in the near future.
So what is the CMA’s No. 1 priority in 2006?

“Access, access, access,” Corcoran says. “Access to health insurance for the
seven million uninsured in California, and we want to make sure that people
have access to physicians.”

“For those that don’t have health insurance, the first step is to get them
insured. For people that have health insurance, we have to make sure that we
protect the benefits they have,” Corcoran said.

Some of CMA’s legislative priorities are well known, such as the group’s
efforts to fight the steady erosion of Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for
physicians or their efforts to keep medical decisions in the hands of
doctors, rather than insurers. But others may come as a surprise, such as a
plan to develop for consumers a standardized schedule of doctors’ fees.

“Physician services are not the driver in health care costs, but we are
certainly ready to do our part to publicize standardized rates,” Corcoran

Corcoran, an Orange County native, began in politics as a volunteer on Bill
Clinton’s presidential campaign, and has been hooked on politics ever since.
He became student body president at Cypress College, then transferred to
American University in Washington, D.C., where he studied communications,
legal institutions, economics and government. After graduation, he became a
lobbyist for the Community College League of California, which represents
the CEOs and trustees of the 109 community colleges.

Corcoran later joined the CMA, largely because he wanted to work with
Thompson. Corcoran started out as a membership coordinator for the CMA
Political Action Committee, and then he moved to government relations as a
lobbyist where he had primary responsibility for bills related to access to
care, emergency medicine, hospitals, tobacco usage, public health and health
care system reform.

Corcoran, an avid poker and soccer player, lives in Sacramento’s South Land
Park area with his wife, Glenda, who is on the staff of Assemblyman Joe
Nation, D-San Rafael.

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