Danville couple’s MICRA measure files signatures

A Danville couple whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003 submitted 840,000 signatures Monday to qualify a measure for November’s ballot that would raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs.

Bob and Carmen Pack, and the attorneys’ groups backing them, needed to gather 504,760 valid signatures from registered voters by today in order to get the measure on the ballot.

“The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act will save lives and prevent families across California from having to endure the tragedies ours have by creating accountability and transparency in medical care,” Bob Pack said in a news release. “Voters should have the right to enact the patient safety protections the legislature has denied them for decades, including protections from drug abusing, drug dealing, and dangerous doctors.”

The measure would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery – now fixed at $250,000 – for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

Medical organizations oppose the measure.

“A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said in a news release Monday. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

Opponents note California’s independent Legislative Analyst found the measure could increase state and local government health costs by hundreds of millions of dollars per year. “If this measure passes, it will cost taxpayers, health consumers and local governments across our state a significant amount of money,” said Central Valley Health Network CEO Cathy Frey.

Opponents had banked about $31.3 million by the start of this year to fight the measure, while proponents had banked about $375,000.

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

    Yeah, every accident is somebody’s fault, and every accident should end up before a judge, according to trial lawyers. Horrible as this family’s loss was, it hardly serves as an indictment of the entire medical profession, which is what this measure does.