Proposed Medical Malpractice Ballot Initiative Cleared for Circulation
A proposed ballot initiative that would eliminate a cap on damages under California's medical malpractice law recently was cleared for circulation, the San Francisco Chronicle/Columbus Republic reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle/Columbus Republic, 11/5).
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.
Details of Ballot Initiative
In July, Consumer Watchdog filed papers for the measure, which would raise the limit on medical malpractice damages to $1.1 million and allow for continued adjustments for inflation.
The 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 state ballot in November 2014 (California Healthline, 7/26).
J.G. Preston, a spokesperson for Consumer Attorneys of California, called the measure a "patient safety initiative," but some doctor advocacy groups say it is aimed solely at changing the state's medical malpractice law.
Molly Weedn, a spokesperson for the California Medical Association, called the drug-related parts of the initiative "nothing more than window dressing" for an attempt to increase the medical malpractice limit.
More than $31 million already has been raised for a campaign to defeat the measure, including a $5 million contribution from CMA (San Francisco Chronicle/Columbus Republic, 11/5).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.