Planned Ballot Measure Would Raise State’s Medical Malpractice Cap
A campaign is underway to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would increase the limits on medical malpractice compensation to about $1.1 million, the Los Angeles Times reports. Supporters have until March 24 to submit the signatures (Mason, Los Angeles Times, 2/18).
The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act was enacted in 1975 to protect health care providers from increasing malpractice insurance rates and expensive lawsuits.
The law limits all damages related to pain and suffering or emotional loss from a loved one's death to $250,000. Under the law, economic and punitive damages remain unlimited in medical malpractice cases.
In July 2013, Consumer Watchdog filed papers for the ballot initiative, which would raise the limit on medical malpractice damages and allow for continued adjustments for inflation.
The ballot measure also would call for doctors to:
- Check a prescription drug tracking database before prescribing controlled substances;
- Undergo random drug and alcohol testing;
- Undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing after an unexpected death or injury occurs;
- Report any witnessed medical negligence or substance misuse by other physicians; and
- Be placed on automatic suspension if they test positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty.
In addition, hospitals would be required to report any positive drug or alcohol test results to the California Medical Board.
Proponents must collect more than 504,000 registered voters' signatures to qualify the measure for the November state ballot (California Healthline, 11/7/13).
Details of Campaign
So far, initiative supporters have raised $1.7 million to back the measure and have spent $800,000 to circulate petitions in its favor.
Backers also have:
- Paid for billboards criticizing the malpractice cap;
- Publicized a hotline for patients to report drug- or alcohol-impaired physicians; and
- Sent graphic videos about medical malpractice to elected officials.
Brian Kabateck, former president of Consumer Attorneys for California, predicts that the initiative's supporters will raise about $10 million.
However, opponents already have raised about $33 million to oppose the ballot initiative, according to the Times.
Steinberg Considers Malpractice Legislation
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said that he is considering introducing a bill that would make the proposed ballot initiative unnecessary.
Steinberg said such ballot initiatives should be used as a "last resort" (Los Angeles Times, 2/18).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.