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Profile: Medicine Man

By Megan Kinneyn | Mar. 2, 2007

Law Office Management

Mar. 2, 2007

Profile: Medicine Man

Finding the right lawyer to represent the state's doctors. By Traci Hukill

By Traci Hukill
      Former State Senator Joe Dunn may seem an unlikely choice to head the day-to-day operations of the California Medical Association (CMA): Before heading to Sacramento in 1998 as the Democratic representative from Santa Ana, he made a name for himself as an attorney by spearheading class action lawsuits against the manufacturers of silicon breast implants, heart valves, and the diet drug fen-phen.
      But many state medical associations choose lawyers as their CEOs, which is not unreasonable when you're trying to build up as much lobbying clout as possible. And as a lawyer, Dunn says, his product liability cases hardly got in the way of his relationships with doctors. Case in point: As plaintiffs liaison counsel for the California Coordinated Breast Implant Litigation, Dunn worked with his counterpart on the defense team to exclude from the lawsuits thousands of physicians who weren't at fault.
      In the Legislature, Dunn worked hard for passage of a bill to allow doctors to sue insurance companies over late payments, even though it died on the governor's desk. And on the Senate Judiciary Committee last June, Dunn lined up with the CMA when he cast the deciding vote to kill a bill that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide.
      So, last fall when it came time to find a replacement for Dr. Jack Lewin, the 35,000-member CMA's departing CEO, the termed-out legislator was a natural choice.
      Now the question is: How will the CMA do in what promises to be this year's big fight over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed health care reforms? The governor wants mandatory health insurance for all 36 million Californians, and he's asking doctors to share the burden with workers, employers, government, and insurers. In fact, the plan would fund the insurance pool partly with a 2 percent tax on doctors' receipts.
      Dunn, for one, says he's looking forward to a battle royal.

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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