CALIFORNIA: TWO BILLS WOULD ALLOW HIGHER MALPRACTICE AWARDS
"Reopening the war over medical malpractice lawsuits, trialThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
attorneys are backing two bills aimed at partially lifting caps
on malpractice damages, prompting California physicians to mount
a major effort to kill the measures," LOS ANGELES TIMES reports.
State Assemblywomen Carole Migden (D) and Sheila Kuehl (D) have
introduced bills that would amend California's Medical Injury
Compensation Reform Act of 1975. The act placed a $250,000
ceiling on pain and suffering awards for malpractice victims.
FINANCIAL FOOTFALL: Midgen's proposal targets HMOs and
health insurers by removing the awards cap if a physician "who
caused the injury gained financially by refusing or delaying
treatment, or by refusing to refer patients to specialists,"
TIMES reports. Kuehl's bill would lift the cap in "specific
instances," such as cases involving "gross negligence" on the
part of the doctor or abusive practices by doctors. Midgen said,
"These bills seek to restore the balance between too much
medicine and too little protection." Both bills are supported by
the trial lawyers group Consumer Attorneys of California.
"FRONTAL ASSAULT": "This is Ground Zero for the California
Medical Assn.," said Mike Mattoch, lobbyist for the association.
Mattoch added, "It is a very big fight. A lot of resources are
going to be wasted in this fight." Dr. Brian Johnston, president
of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, said, "Most people
have forgotten, but 20 years ago our system was nearly brought to
a halt by medical malpractice premiums." He estimated that his
malpractice insurance "would double or triple if the bills are
signed into law." Mattoch, in describing the bills as "a full
frontal assault on the protection given doctors" by the 1975
Reform Act, said, "There's a certain percentage of the trial
lawyers' membership who feel they are not making enough money on
these cases." TIMES reports that Migden and Kuehl "acknowledge
that they may not win passage of the measures this year" (Morain,