CDA, coalition launch fight to protect MICRA

CDA and partners in the coalition, Californians Allied for Patient Protection, are launching statewide efforts to fight an attempt by trial lawyers to make changes to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which ensures injured patients receive fair compensation, while stabilizing liability costs.

Trial lawyers have filed a ballot measure with the State Attorney General — the first step in a long and expensive process to qualify a measure for the November ballot — which would change provisions of MICRA that protect dentists, physicians and other health care providers from frivolous lawsuits. Trial lawyers had threatened to take the issue to voters next year if the Legislature did not make changes before the end of the summer legislative session, a move that has not yet occurred.

Since 1974, when a medical malpractice insurance crisis in California led to MICRA’s passage, health care providers, including dentists, have been protected from extreme liability exposure and skyrocketing premiums by its various provisions, the most important of which has been a $250,000 cap on speculative noneconomic damage awards, which helps reduce incentives by lawyers to file meritless lawsuits that drive up health care costs.

This latest effort to change MICRA is occurring at the same time the state is implementing federal health care reform (ACA), which will bring coverage to millions of additional Californians. Higher costs that could result from trial lawyer-sponsored changes to MICRA would likely increase operating costs for doctors, hospitals and community clinics, jeopardizing the ability of providers to take on more patients.

The coalition supporting MICRA is monitoring trial lawyer activity and has published a number of op-ed articles in major California newspapers to counter publicity attempts to lift the cap, which would increase costs for consumers by billions of dollars per year while reducing patient access to health care providers. The coalition is also educating state legislators about the importance of keeping MICRA intact, including letters from various stakeholders such as healthcare, law enforcement and organized labor groups expressing concern over attempts to change the law.

CDA will keep members informed about the latest developments regarding MICRA in the CDA Update, e-newsletter and on cda.org.

Updated on 9/4/13