In November California voters will decide whether or not the caps on damages in medical malpractice cases should be raised. This is the first time since they were enacted in 1975 that we have even been asked! Along with lifting damages will be also vote to prevent doctors from being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while treating patients and to prevent them from over prescribing pain medications to persons with a history of substance abuse. The Troy and Alana Pack Safety Act of 2014 (Also Known as Proposition 46) highlights are:
- Increase the current limit on non-economic damages from $250,000 to account for inflation since 1975. This would place the limit at slightly over $1 Million.
- Require drug and alcohol screening of physicians along with mandatory reporting to the California Medical Board for those who test positive.
- Require the CA Medical Board to suspend doctors pending investigations following a positive drug test and then take disciplinary action if a doctor is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty.
- Require health practitioners to report any physician suspected of drug or alcohol impairment while on duty or medical negligence.
- Require physicians to run a check through the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.
Nothing in this measure will affect any other aspects of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) enacted in the early 1970’s other than the cap on pain and suffering damages. The limitations on attorney’s fees, shorter statute of limitation and the various other aspects of that law will stay in place. The damages cap is simply being adjusted for inflation. Why are physician’s groups in California touting this measure as, “trial lawyers waging an aggressive campaign to weaken or overturn California’s landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act”. The California Medical Association suggests that the increase of pain and suffering damages to simply account for inflation have the “drastic” consequences of driving up medical malpractice insurance premiums and send doctors fleeing the Golden State! Their evidence simply doesn’t bear out their arguments.
Myth: MICRA was a necessary measure to stem a major “crisis” in California of rising medical malpractice insurance premiums.
Fact: In 1975, the insurance industry was not nearly as regulated as they are presently with regard to regulation of premium increases. All studies on the issue failed to point to “frivolous” medical negligence claims as a cause for the increased cost of insurance for physicians. In fact, many experts opined that the poor economic conditions of the period had more to do with the premium increases as insurance companies depend upon investment income to make a profit.
Myth: MICRA has served to reduce medical negligence insurance premiums and raising the cap on economic damages will cause these premiums to go back up.
Fact: National statistics show that premiums for physicians in states with caps on damages are actually higher than in states without caps. In addition, between 2001 and 2011, payments for malpractice claims went down by 50% and profits for insurance companies went up but, premiums only decreased by a whopping 7 %. This appears to indicate that any reduction on claims simply goes to line the pockets of the insurance industry and does very little to reduce premiums for doctors.
Myth: States without damages caps are suffering from a “doctor shortage” and caps serve to keep doctors in the state.
Fact: States without damages caps (like New York) actually have a higher number of physicians per capita than states with caps (like California or Texas).
The fact is that simply increasing the limit on non-economic damages to account for inflation is just fair for all Californians. The insurance lobby was behind the enactment of MICRA and will pour upwards of 45 Million’s Dollars into trying to convince you that the average person in California that the measure was and is fair but, what’s fair about limiting parents of a dead child to $250,000 in recovery? What’s fair about putting this same cap on recovery for the loss of a limb? In addition, wouldn’t we all be safer if we had testing of doctors and disciplinary procedures in place when physicians operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs or improperly prescribe narcotics to patients proven to be a risk? We think this answer is YES. Vote YES on 46!
We are the Law Office of Guenard & Bozarth and we are passionate about this issue. We protect and represent those that are injured through whatever means. If you have been injured call our office at 888-809-1075 24/7/365 or visit www.gblegal.com We Can Help!