Danville dad’s MICRA initiative starts circulating

A Danville man whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 can start circulating his proposed ballot measure that would raise California’s nearly 40-year old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, the Secretary of State’s office said Thursday.

The start of petitioning moves the ball forward in what could be one of next year’s costliest ballot-measure battles.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the Attorney General’s office:

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING OF DOCTORS. MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE LAWSUITS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive test to the California Medical Board. Requires Board to suspend doctor pending investigation of positive test and take disciplinary action if doctor was impaired while on duty. Requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. Requires health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Increases $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits to account for inflation. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: State and local government costs associated with higher net medical malpractice costs, likely at least in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, potentially ranging to over one hundred million dollars annually. Potential net state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services that, while highly uncertain, potentially range from minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. (13-0016.)

Pack must collect valid signatures of 504,760 registered voters by March 24 in order to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot.

The California Medical Association, California Hospital Association, California Dental Association, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Central Valley Health Network created a “Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs” committee this summer to oppose the measure. The committee had banked at least $31.5 million by the end of August.

Bob and Carmen Pack will kick off the petition drive during a memorial gathering at 4 p.m. Sunday at Danville’s Sycamore Valley Elementary School and Park, marking the 10th anniversary of the deaths of their children, Troy, 10, and Alana, 7.

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.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Emotion aside, an unwise prop.

  • peppermintinSF

    Police, firepeople and truck drivers are all drug tested. Why should docs be exempt? Scary to know that’s the real fact. The prop is in the benefit of the people.

  • Eric Andrist

    Why is it unwise? Why would you come here and say something like that without having a reason? Your POV is moot without it.

  • Eric Andrist

    People don’t understand the terrible ramifications of NOT passing this. Just ask yourself this:

    1. Do you want to go to a doctor for surgery (or any procedure) who is drunk or stoned?

    2. If you’re harmed by a doctor who is drunk or stoned, do you want him/her to get away with it and go on to do it again?

    3. If you or a loved one are harmed or killed due to medical negligence, the current law will almost always prevent you from getting a lawyer because the cap is so low. Out of $250k, you have to pay court costs (upwards of $100k), attorney fees ($75,000) which only leaves $75,000 for the victim. The original law was passed in 1975 when gas was .75 a gallon and has never been raised in 38 years. That $75k you MIGHT get, is really only worth about $17k in today’s dollars.

    So let’s say you take your child in for a procedure and they die from medical negligence. IF you are one of the lucky ones to make it to court, IF you are one of the rare cases that actually wins, the current law is valuing your child’s life at $17k in today’s dollars.

    The cap needs to be raised to what it would be worth if it had kept up with inflation, like almost everything else…which is just over $1 million.

    Doctors are getting away with harm and murder right and left in this country due to tort reform laws.

    It needs to stop.

  • Jim Reilley

    “Requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence.”
    This otherwise would have been a good idea and overdue but to turn medical professionals into spies, to criminally convict Drs for not rooting out substance abuse or some vague undefined standard of “negligence” when they need to focus on their own practice, is totally unreasonable and the TV ads will shred this to pieces. Hold Dr’s accountable but dont legally force collegues to be spies under threat of criminal prosecution = is that what we want Dr’s focused on????

  • Jim Reilley

    Just dont ask collegues to be spies, have an independent investigatory body do it. Drs cannot practice medicine if they feel they are being spied on by their coworkers. What standard for reporting? Does the threat of criminal prosecution lead coworkers to “overreport” & lead to witchhunts and good Drs being falsely accused and ruined?
    This is poorly written and they need to redraft it without the reporting requirements for coworkers.

  • Jim Reilley

    Read my comments above. This is so poorly written. The general idea is good.

  • Eric Andrist

    Yes, heaven forbid when a doctor reports another doctor for being high on drugs or alcohol while on duty. Let’s have pity for paranoid doctors who don’t want to be spied on so they can be high.

    It’s a little dramatic to think there will be witch hunts. LOTS of professions have random drug testing, are you hearing about witch hunts in other industries? Airline pilots, teachers, school bus drivers?

    If a doctor ISN’T doing anything wrong, it should be pretty darned easy to prove that they’re not guilty.

    There’s nothing poorly written about this proposition in the least.

  • Eric Andrist

    You’ve been watching too many movies. People reporting others for putting others in danger are not “spies,” it’s called being responsible. It’s not unlike someone NOT reporting a parent for abusing their child. Concerned citizens aren’t “spies” for making sure the welfare of a child is not being harmed.

    Negligence is negligence, it needs no standard. If a doctor has 2 drinks at lunch and performs a procedure that harms a patient, it’s negligent whether it’s a scratch or an amputation. Had the doctor not been drunk, it likely wouldn’t have happened. No responsible doctor should EVER drink or take drugs and then work on a patient. EVER! So there needs to be repercussions for doing so.

    And if anyone is afraid of being called a “spy” when they are keeping someone from being harmed or killed, needs to see a therapist.

  • Eric Andrist

    You’ve said “poorly written” several times. What about it is poor, aside from your strange notion about “spies?”

  • JohnW

    Well intentioned but, as with any other ballot initiative, likely to produce significant unintended consequences if passed. This would reduce access to and affordability of health care. Although I support ObamaCare, it calls attention to just how expensive health insurance is when it has to be fully paid by the person or family insured, rather than mostly by a third party such as an employer or the government. It’s reaching the point where nobody will be able to afford coverage — not individuals, not employers, not government. But don’t blame the insurance companies. It’s mostly the horrendous underlying cost of health care itself that is to blame. And initiatives of this type won’t help, in my opinion.

  • Eric Andrist

    Baloney. This in no way would reduce access to health care…you’re listening to the propaganda of the medical and insurance industries. We have 22 states in the US that have no tort reform whatsoever, 12 of which have found it to be unconstitutional. Are you saying that those states have less access to care because of it? That’s simply not true!

    It was the INSURANCE COMPANIES in 1975 that made up a false “scare” that started tort reform in this state to begin with! Argonaut Insurance had done poorly in the stock market and needed to make up those losses so they raised malpractice insurance rates. MICRA was supposed to lower those rates, but never did. It wasn’t until Prop 103 in 1988 that malpractice insurance rates went down. Since then, just recently in fact, the attorney general lowered them a great deal all due to Prop 103, which was a ballot initiative that has had the intended consequence of lowering insurance rates.

    See this article from the NY Times June 1975 that details the scam: http://goo.gl/Zyan5j

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Blame mds not dumbass behind the wheel?

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Sounds like an old Jacoby and Meyers TV spot, or one o them ambulance chasers

  • Eric Andrist

    That’s nice, turn a very serious subject into a joke. I hope you’re never touched by medical negligence, but I do hope you understand how devastating it can be for the victims.

  • Eric Andrist

    They blamed both, did you read the story? The dumbass behind the wheel killed the kids. The doctors illegally prescribed her too much medication.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Medical marijuana—a traffic safety ish

  • RRSenileColumnist

    An effin’ airline pilot with hundreds of lives dependent upon his skills, isn’t legally required to inform on stoned colleagues. Ask Sum Ting Wong, controversial aviator.

  • JohnW

    You seem to have a lot of knowledge and passion about the subject. Interesting article from 1975. I question your comment that Prop. 103 caused malpractice insurance rates to go down. That’s way before my time in CA, but wasn’t Prop. 103 about auto insurance regulation?

    Malpractice rates in CA are lower than in states like Florida, and the $250 cap on “pain & suffering” awards is a factor. Runaway jury awards in states without caps are a problem. Defensive medicine is a problem. Malpractice premiums are embedded in the U.S. cost of health care, which is drastically higher than any other developed nation on a per capita and percent of GDP basis.

    I’m about the last person in the world who would listen to propaganda from the insurance industry. I agree with the goals of the legislation. Medical ethics codes require docs to report other docs who are impaired by substance abuse, mental illness etc. But there is under-reporting. But I question whether a ballot initiative is the way to address it. I’ll bet the trial lawyers like it.

  • Eric Andrist

    Why the heck not?! Why should ANYONE who knows that someone else is stoned or drunk NOT inform someone in charge to keep people safe????

  • Elwood

    ” I’ll bet the trial lawyers like it.”

    Hordes of starving attorneys ravaging the land like locusts are licking their chops.

  • Eric Andrist

    Here’s a youtube video of the California Insurance Commissioner
    talking about how he used Prop 103 to lower malpractice insurance premiums. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63SBOXqtUm0

    And here’s an article about it, actually referring to Prop 103: http://goo.gl/pF4YvN

    You’re right, though, the same Prop 103 that lowered Californian’s auto insurance rates is also lowering doctor’s medical malpractice rates.

    Here’s an article from the Journal of Patient safety where doctors prove that tort reform has no effect on “defensive medicine.” http://goo.gl/qCNi1M

    Here’s another one: http://goo.gl/mCDHZX

    And another: http://goo.gl/FekPjS

    Runaway jury awards can’t be a problem because judges can overrule or amend a jury’s verdict. If he/she doesn’t, the verdict is likely appropriate.

    Of course the trial lawyers like it, it will allow them to start taking medical negligence cases again…there’s nothing wrong with that. Some doctors will like it as well as they make big bucks testifying against each other.

    It’s the lucrative insurance companies that will hate it the most.

  • Eric Andrist

    The attorneys have not asked for their cap to be raised. The cap is being raised so that victims of medical negligence can once again get to court to hold their harmers responsible. Here’s a chart that proves that victims will get more of the verdict while lawyers take barely moves. http://goo.gl/5K8tMr

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Come to think of it, I once saw a dental assistant who was probably high on marihuana. Ugly. Dangerous? I dunno.

  • Lucky2087

    This initiative would reduce patient’s access to care. Period. Requiring doctors who are already over worked to pay for their own random drug tests is like having you dig your own grave. No other industry where drug testing is required makes the person being drug tested pay for the test. Also defining marijuana marijuana metabolites as an indication of impairment that requires suspension of a medical license is insane. Marijuana metabolites can be detected for weeks for a single use. I am all for throwing the book at doctors who botch surgeries while intoxicated, but this initiative is out to punish doctors and line the pockets of lawyers. Keep in mind that only pain and suffering is subject to the $250,000. The is no cap on medical expenses or lost income caused by medical malpractice. MICRA works. Most states have some form of medical malpractice tort reform for good reason. And states that do not often have doctors with no insurance and no assets for any recovery by victims of medical malpractice.

  • Lucky2087

    She was driving without a driver’s license.

  • Eric Andrist

    Funny how you use the exact words the medical/insurance industry uses in their propaganda.

    When MICRA was instituted in 1975, there was no one shouting, “Patients don’t have access to care! We need tort reform!” MICRA was solely about the reduction of medical negligence insurance for doctors…and it NEVER REDUCED INSURANCE PREMIUMS! In fact, they went up and up and up after MICRA became law.

    There are 22 states with no tort reform, 12 found it to be unconstitutional. They are NOT having any problems with patients getting access to health care.

    What does the amount of hours a doctor works have to do with whether they’re drug tested???? What does whether other industries charge for the testing have to do with THIS law???? Doctors are fricking rich and so as to not put undue cost stress on patients and hospitals and run up insurance costs, they will pay for their own testing….which is how it should be in all industries, not the opposite.

    It doesn’t matter how long metabolites can be detected. If it’s a DOCTOR performing life and death procedures on patients, they shouldn’t be smoking pot in the first place!

    From marijuana.com:”“50 nanograms of THC metabolites per milliliter” defines a presumptive positive by most laboratories and instant tests. This value was originally 20 ng/mL, but too many false positives resulted. So the level was raised to 100 ng/mL to reduce false positives. As of January 1995, the threshold was lowered back down to 50 ng/mL because it became known that drinking excessive water could easily bring the level of metabolites in the urine below 100 ng/mL. Some employers may use a lower cutoff, but that is rare. If a specimen screens non-negative for THC (anything other than negative or fails an integrity test), the specimen is then sent through a Gas Chromatograph/Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS) for the specific metabolite tripping the immunoassay screening. This level is set at 15 ng/m, and is used as the ultimate confirmation for a positive on your drug test.”

    This initiative has NOTHING to do with “lining the pockets of lawyers.” First of all, the drug testing part penalizes doctors who perform their duties drunk or stoned. The tort reform part, does NOT raise the cap on lawyer fees, it only raises the cap on the “non-economic” damages that a VICTIM OF MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE can win. If you’ll read in the comments further, there is a chart that proves that the lawyer’s percentage barely goes up if the cap is raised to $1 million, but the victim’s percentage goes up almost 30%. While there is no cap on medical expenses, a lot of senior citizens and most disabled people have no medical expenses. My disabled sister will only qualify for the non-economic damage part of her case as she had no medical expenses because they are paid by the government. Out of $250k, a disabled victim is lucky if they take home $75k, which in 1975 dollars (MICRA has never been raised with inflation since 1975) is about $17k. So if a senior or disabled person goes in for surgery and comes out with no arms and legs due to medical negligence (like Alan Cronin who went in for surgery, got a hospital-acquired infection and left a quadriplegic), all they’ll get is the worth of $17k for the rest of their life. If they live another 30 years, that works out to $47 a month…to live as a quadriplegic.

    NO STATE has tort reform for a good reason, because tort reform doesn’t work as intended. There is study after study, some even by doctors, that prove this.

    And why SHOULDN’T we punish doctors if they use drugs while they work? You make it sound like they’re some elite group of people who get special circumstances for using drugs on the job!

    Your last sentence doesn’t make sense.

  • Eric Andrist

    Do you really want to risk it? Wouldn’t be too funny if they slipped and tore open your gums, or forgot to wash their hands after touching another patient because they were high.

  • Lucky

    Sounds like you have an ax to grind with Doctors. You are obviously not living in a fact based reality when you say “Doctors are fricking rich.” Most doctors have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans. Let’s make California the state where doctors have to report each other for medical negligence or else face sanctions. Medical negligence is up to a jury, not a doctor. And if you have any traces of marijuana metabolites in your system (that can be detected for up to 6 weeks after use) then you should have you medical license suspended?!?!?!? Test for active drugs, not metabolites. A single drink of alcohol can now be detected for up to 80 hours – let’s yank a Doctor’s license for that too – even if she has been a practicing doctor in good standing for 20 plus years. Pass this initiative if you want your health care access to diminish. Doctors won’t come to California. Doctors will leave California. Most states have medical malpractice tort reform for good reason. This initiative is being bank rolled by trial lawyers because the can’t get it through the California legislature. The opposition has already raised over $40,000,000 to defeat this initiative and it has not even passed the signature drive. By the way, there are two initiatives to legalize Marijuana all together as it has been in Washington and Colorado. Gavin Newson has already come out in support of California legalizing marijuana. This initiative wants use in inactive metabolites as a sign that a doctor was under the influence or unfit to have a medical license only because it can be detected easily and for long periods. What about prescription benzodiazapines that cause much more impairment that Marijuana, but can be detected for a shorter period of time – guess what – they are OK according to this initiative and not used as a indicator of impairment. What a sham.

  • Eric Andrist

    Nope, you’re trying to twist my words to fit yours. I have an axe to grind only with doctors who are negligent, and believe me, there are plenty of them. But there are more doctors that are good, so we’re lucky in that regard. But we have to take measures to make sure we’re safe from the dangerous one and that they can be properly held accountable for their actions.

    MOST doctors are fricking rich. That has nothing to do with doctors who still have student loans.

    ” In 2011, compensation self-reported by surveyed physicians ranged from an average of $156,000 for pediatricians to $315,000 for radiologists and orthopedic surgeons. The survey showed that 51 percent of all physicians — and 46 percent of primary care physicians – think they’re compensated fairly.”


    Again you’re twisting words. Doctors who would have been tested and found positive for traces of marIjuana would have their licenses suspended TEMPORARILY DURING THE INVESTIGATION.

    Even good-standing doctors can stupidly drink or do drugs and harm someone. The fact that they practice medicine well has nothing to do with their personal troubles and the things they do to cope with them. Doctors are overworked and notorious for self-prescribing (and prescribing to other doctors) medications to keep them going on a grueling schedule. Those things add up and lead to negligence.

    Doctor’s WON’T leave California. That’s they same hysterical propaganda that was used when MICRA was instituted in 1975. In the intervening years, they proved that it was totally untrue. http://ehsgrads.org/MICRA/onlinefiles/NYTimesDoctorsNOTLeaving.pdf

    The initiative is NOT being bankrolled by trial lawyers, it’s sponsored by a private citizen Bob Pack (Founder of NetZero) and Consumer Watchdog. So you’re wrong again.

    The Consumer Attorneys have not yet put up a dime to sponsor it.

    Imagine the opposition running so scared that they have to raise so much money when it isn’t even on the ballot yet! They know we have a good point and a good chance of getting this passed.

    I could care less about legalizing marijuana, that has nothing to do with this. The initiative makes no differentiation between actice and inactive metabolites. There are already protocols that make the decision as to what is acceptable in this state.

    The initiative also makes no specific mention of “prescription benzodiazapines” so I have no idea why you’re bringing that up.

    If a doctor uses benzodiazapines and it’s not detected, they have nothing to worry about, do they? So it’s a moot point. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t test for other drugs.

    The only “sham” is you trying mislead people to believing like you.

  • Lucky

    Nice article from 1977 you use to support your case. It tells how OBGYNs quit delivering babies before MICRA. You convinced me. Lets increase medical malpractice litigation in California. Your argument that indebtedness of doctors is not relevant because you proclaim them “freaking rich* is rock solid as well. Keep believing it.

  • Lucky

    She was also drunk. Let’s sue the doctors for millions!

  • Eric Andrist

    Leave it to you to miss the point completely. The 1977 article, as I pointed out, was to show you that even in the original malpractice insurance scare of 1975 where people like you were crying that doctors were leaving the state, they proved that wasn’t true.

    As for the OBGYNs, the entire malpractice insurance scare was a hoax perpetrated by Argonaut Insurance because they had done poorly in the stock market. Here’s another article for you, this time from 1975, which outlines the entire scam: http://ehsgrads.org/MICRA/onlinefiles/%238NYTimesArgonaut.jpg

    So imagine how idiotic it was if OBGYNs stopped delivering babies, for nothing!

    But again, you missed the point, or you just skimmed the article. The reason they stopped was because they refused to purchase astronomically high insurance due to the phony scare.

    You bet let’s increase litigation if indeed someone is harmed or killed by medical negligence. Are you saying that if someone is harmed or killed, we should just overlook it?????!!!!

    Your last 2 sentences don’t even make sense to me.

  • Eric Andrist

    Had the doctors not illegally prescribed her thousands of narcotics, she likely would have been much less impaired. Regardless of the outcome of the accident, the doctors were in the wrong.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    U gonna rope in a doc for every crime under the sun

  • Eric Andrist

    No, we’re gonna leave the ones we miss for you for your next surgery.