Medical orgs put up $7.5m against MICRA measure

As predicted, California’s medical establishment is starting to put up big money to oppose a proposed ballot measure that would lift the cap on non-economic damages that can be awarded in medical-negligence lawsuits.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network recently created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee to oppose the measure.

That committee got its first big cash injection last week: $5 million from the California Medical Association. The California Hospitals Committee on Issues anted up Wednesday with $2.5 million.

Leading the charge for the ballot measure is Bob Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003. Supported by the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group, Pack says his proposed ballot measure – by raising California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs – would prevent other families from suffering as his has.

The medical organizations see the proposed measure as “a very stark, trial-lawyer-sponsored attempt to increase their ability for a payday,” said Dr. Paul Phinney, the California Medical Association’s president and CEO. They say it will boost Californians’ medical costs without doing anything to improve care.

The proposed measure is awaiting an official title and summary from the state attorney general’s office before it can be cleared to start gathering petition signatures.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Are people really falling for all the medical industry lies? The Doctors Company, which is the largest medical malpractice Insurance company, RUN BY DOCTORS, is rolling in the profits while they charge their doctor customers an arm and a leg in premiums! Then they all start crying that they can’t afford their premiums and take it out on the medical negligence victims that they harm.

    Now on top of it, they’re taking all that profit and putting it into a campaign to further fight this antiquated law which prevents medical negligence victims from holding their harmers accountable.

    It was the insurance companies that concocted the malpractice scare in the first place back in 1975. It was proven that there was no scare, it was just that they had done poorly in the stock market and needed a way to recoup all that money they lost. The doctors fell for it. But in the intervening years, a safe haven was created for the doctors that protected them from nearly all malpractice lawsuits.

    Dr. Phinney is the biggest joke of them all! He keeps spouting the same old rhetoric over and over that is so easily disproved! I sure hope that readers aren’t going to fall for their manipulation. Any one person reading this could be the next person harmed by medical negligence and be out of luck if they want to sue, because of MICRA. Don’t think it won’t happen to you. There are over 200,000 cases of medical negligence in this country every year! Yet only 5% of them actually make it to a claim.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Once again, Big Medicine is picking up where Big Pharma and Big Insurance left off. How long will the Decent Average Citizens Who Play By The Rules be denied the chance to gain wealth and closure in court?. I wanted to sue a doc but the lawyers laffed in my face. I felt humiliated. I may sue the law firm too.

  • Linda DeRogatis

    We need an emergency executive order from President Obama mandating the rate up inflation be retroactively applied. These monkeys are running the Zoo and over what a few hundred thousand dollars who h is needed to open the block gateway to holding these do tor’s accountable. The Doctors Company has billions of dollars in assets, why would they want doctors who wrongfully kill or catastrophically harm human being to contine to practice. We need to clean up our act and get rid of the old crap and make room for advancement within the United States. President Obama please step in and stop this madness. We are asking to just increase the amount to today’s inflation rate so we can hold do tor’s accountable. This is our first priority in light of the fact prescription overdose is the leading cause of death for three consecutive years and the number of deaths are topping the charts. This is a case of top NATIONAL SECURITY. More Americans die each year at a rate equivilent to 10x or more who died from terrorist on 9/11. How can the President of the United States allow our families to go through what is becoming a holocaust. Instead of trains riding humans in for incineration, we have innocent Americans walking in to doctors’ offices and getting euthanasied.

  • JohnW

    As President George W. Bush once famously commented on the need for medical malpractice tort reform, “Too many OB/GYN’s aren’t able to practice their love with women all across the country.”

    Not a very elegant statement, but he was right.

  • Jessica Chan

    I’m sick of hearing the lies about medical malpractice. MICRA prevents victims from holding doctors accountable. Striking down MICRA will help with patient safety and weed of the doctors that are a liability.

  • JohnW

    This is about non-economic (“pain and suffering”) damages. There is no cap on actual economic damages for medical costs, loss of past and future income, etc.

    Our legal system encourages runaway “pain and suffering” awards in medical malpractice cases:

    There is no pre-screening by an expert panel to determine whether there is probability of actual negligence by the doctor or hospital.

    Juries tend to be more emotional than fact-driven in these cases. When it comes to non-economic damages, they get no direction from the Court. It’s open-ended. Who doesn’t want to give a family millions at the expense of the big bad doctor, hospital or drug company? Fortunately, courts do sometimes order reductions in excessive awards after the fact.

    The “contingency fee” system provides an incentive to go for the big non-economic awards, whether justified or not.

    There is no free lunch. This is part of what drives up health care costs, compared with other countries that have more restraints on medical malpractice. California has actually been one of the more responsible states in this area. Malpractice insurance rates in specialties such as OB/GYN and neurosurgery are still very high, but more reasonable compared with other states that don’t have caps on non-economic awards. In some of those states, doctors have stopped practicing in those specialties or moved to other states.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    Sad as Bob Pack’s story is, there isn’t much in the trial record that indicates a doc could have prevented the culprit from misusing her meds.