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The meeting of the University of California Regents resumed for its final session yesterday morning and discussed the financial status of UC Medical Centers and the UC Office of the President Budget following a public comment session that touched on a variety of issues including student internships, staff-to-student ratios and controversy surrounding the failure of a UCLA Associated Students resolution to divest from companies who do business with Israel.
During the 20 minute public forum, speakers from discussed the UCLA chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine regarding a judicial affairs case they recently filed over an alleged conflict of interest among Associated Students members, while other commenters spoke about unpaid internships and teaching assistant-to-student ratios. Regents later heard a presentation from Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and Services Dr. Jack Stobo, who discussed cost-cutting possibilities to stay within UC Health’s projected revenue stream, as well as expanding the UC health care system to cover a greater number of students and stay competitive with private insurance providers.
Darcie McClelland Descalzo, a graduate student at UC Riverside and the graduate and professional chair for UC Student Association, said the proportion of teaching assistants to students has jumped significantly over the last few years, to the detriment of minority students.
“In 2009, our TA-to-student ratio was one TA to 60 students,” Descalzo said. “By 2010, they were one TA for 150. That’s a big jump in one year and we haven’t seen it go back … It’s affecting our minority students … because they’re not getting the help they need to succeed in classes.”
Michael Amster, an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, said students have been experiencing difficulty in finding paid internships, and advocated a tax credit for businesses that hired student interns.
“If businesses were to pay their interns that went to college at the minimum wage, they get a tax credit for that. Businesses get subsidized labor, [and] interns get paid internships,” Amster said.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a languages and applied linguistics professor at UC Santa Cruz and the co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating and combating campus anti-Semitism, criticized Students for Justice in Palestine, arguing they harassed pro-Israel students at UCLA by filing the judicial affairs case, which claimed individual Associated Students senators voted against the divestment resolution only after going on a sponsored trip to Israel.
“SJP is the only university funded organization at UCLA, or on any UC campus, whose very mission targets an ethnic minority for hatred and vilification, and whose activities routinely harass, intimidate and silence members of that ethnic minority on campus,” Rossman-Benjamin said. “SJP’s actions clearly violate both the UCLA principles of community and the student code of conduct.”
After public comment, Stobo, referencing the ideas of healthcare futurist Ian Morrison, said the UC Health system has in the past, taken a “volume-based” approach to treatment that focuses on providing more services at the expense of care quality.
“Volume-based means the more we do the more we get paid, it’s a fee for service model in which we get paid for doing more with very little emphasis in how well we do it or the clinical outcomes.”
Stobo also said by 2017 projected revenues of UC Medical Centers will not be able to cover projected costs, and emphasized the need for a new approach to managing the Medical Centers.
“The [current] model is based on intervening when patients are sick, not making sure they don’t get sick and emphasizing wellness and prevention,” Stobo said. “It’s a model based on competition, not cooperation. That model worked for us and … I would submit it’s time for us to look at a new model.
According to Stobo, while each UC Medical Center undertakes cost reduction measures in the form of cutting expenses to programs on an individual basis, such measures are insufficient without a coordinated, system-wide plan to oversee such things as supply purchases, which he estimated could save $150 million dollars alone if reformed.
“I submit that no individual medical center can, by itself, get to where it needs to be in cost reduction. … We need to take 900 million dollars out of our cost structure by 2020,” Stobo said. “What we need to do first is standardize throughout the system what we’re doing in terms of best practices and then move from there to optimizing it.”
According to Stobo, the Affordable Care Act and a “change in the healthcare environment” will effectively force the UC to revise its business model in order to remain “successful” over the course of the next decade.
“I’m convinced that we need to move from a volume-based to a value based model … [in which] we act as an integrated health system of academic medical centers … to address issues related to excellence in the provision of clinical care,” Stobo said.
Aditya Tadanki contributed to this article.