The California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) along with a coalition of health care organizations, community and business groups, local governments and unions is in the midst of a critical battle over a ballot measure that would have what many are calling a catastrophic impact on the state’s health care system – impacting both providers and patients.
At issue is the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975, which put a cap on pain-and-suffering awards (speculative, non-economic damages) of $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. Economic damages, such as lost wages and future medical costs, are unlimited.
During the 1970s California was in the midst of a medical malpractice insurance crisis as high non-economic damage awards lead to skyrocketing professional liability premiums. The passage of MICRA ensured that injured patients would receive fair compensation while stabilizing liability costs, which MICRA successfully did.
The ballot measure, put forth by California trial lawyers 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 for the encouragement of meritless lawsuits and increased attorney 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.
Titled “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act,” the initiative contains additional provisions regarding drug testing of doctors; as well a monitoring doctors prescribing practices that would place infeasible requirements on the state’s prescription drug database, which proponents of the measure have admitted were added because they polled well with the public.
“It’s very important for podiatric physicians to oppose this initiative which is slated to appear on the November ballot,” said CPMA President Carolyn McAloon, DPM. “The measure is being pitched to the public as a patient safety issue, when in reality the primary purpose is to raise the non-economic damage cap in medical malpractice cases. CPMA has been told that
passage of the measure could lead to a tripling or quadrupling of professional liability insurance rates for California’s podiatric physicians.”