California Medical Malpractice Insurance Law Should Serve as Model for Other States, Opinion Piece States
California's 1976 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act should serve as a model for medical malpractice reform in other states because the law "works and works well," Cruz Reynoso, a retired state Supreme Court Justice and member of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Arbitration Oversight Board, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. Under MICRA, Reynoso writes, plaintiffs and attorneys in malpractice lawsuits receive shares of damage awards based on a contingency fee scale; plaintiffs with more serious injuries receive larger shares of the awards. In addition, the law allows "periodic payments for future damages so that resources" can "be better marshaled for the benefit of the parties" and promotes arbitration agreements between providers and patients to help avoid "costly and cumbersome court trials," he writes. The law also places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards in malpractice lawsuits, the "principle MICRA feature responsible for reducing malpractice costs" in the state, according to Reynoso. Physicians and hospitals in California pay "significantly less" for malpractice insurance than those in other states, although the number of malpractice lawsuits has increased since 1975, he writes. Reynoso concludes, "MICRA has ... helped stabilize the liability insurance market by avoiding the blockbuster awards seen in other states" (Reynoso, Los Angeles Times, 2/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.