Raising malpractice cap likely headed for ballot

CDA and a coalition of health care organizations are ready to fight a ballot measure over California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which now appears inevitable after trial lawyers submitted more than 800,000 signatures to qualify their anti-MICRA initiative for the November ballot. Slightly more than 500,000 valid signatures, which will be verified over the next several weeks, are needed for the measure to qualify.

The trial lawyers’ measure would more than quadruple MICRA’s cap on non-economic damages, raising it to $1.1 million. This would have devastating effects on California’s health care system, increasing costs by billions of dollars annually and reducing access to care while allowing lawyers to make more in legal fees. An analysis by the state’s independent Legislative Analyst says the measure could also increase costs by “hundreds of millions of dollars annually” for the state and local governments.

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 ensures injured patients receive fair compensation, while stabilizing liability costs. During the 1970s, a medical malpractice insurance crisis led to the passage of MICRA, which protects health care providers, including dentists, from extreme liability exposure and skyrocketing premiums. A $250,000 cap on speculative, noneconomic damage awards reduced the incentives by trial lawyers to file meritless lawsuits.

It was also during that same time period that CDA responded to its members by creating TDIC, The Dentists Insurance Company, so dentists would not be at the mercy of increasing annual premiums, which were rising between 100 to 400 percent due to litigation of claims and huge monetary awards.

“It’s very important for our members to oppose the trial lawyers’ initiative if it appears on the November ballot,” said CDA President James, Stephens, DDS. “They’re pitching this to the public as a patient safety issue, when they readily admit the primary purpose is to raise the malpractice cap, resulting in increased compensation to lawyers.”

Titled “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act,” the trial lawyers’ initiative contains additional provisions regarding drug testing of doctors and places infeasible requirements on the state’s prescription drug database, which proponents have said were only included in the measure because they polled well with the public.

CDA and a coalition that includes physicians, hospitals, community clinics, business groups, civil liberties groups, local governments and others are working defeat this initiative. The coalition has tens of millions of dollars committed toward a statewide campaign, Stop Higher Health Care Costs, and is working educate the public through the media and newspaper editorials.

For more on how you can help the campaign, visit www.stophigherhealthcarecosts.com/.