This 2014 election will contain an initiative war between physicians on one hand, and on the other the plaintiffs’ Bar and Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris has enabled a ballot initiative, which would repeal the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (“MICRA”) and thereby increase malpractice damages, which may be recovered from doctors, hospitals, nurses, community clinics, firefighters, EMTs and other health workers. However, the repeal of MICRA is deceptively buried under the issue of “substance abuse.”
MICRA was passed in 1978 to solve a litigation-induced crisis in malpractice insurance. All subsequent efforts to modify the law have failed—because the law reduces healthcare costs. MICRA fairly compensates patients who are injured during medical care by providing unlimited compensation for past and future earnings, past and future medical care, and even punitive damages, while it reduces incentives to file meritless lawsuits.
Kamala Harris has repeatedly abused her powers as Attorney General to mislead voters on ballot initiatives, destroying the measures she disfavors, such as pension reform. She shamelessly misuses her authority to lay the foundation for her 2018 campaign for Governor. Medical doctors are only the latest victims of Harris’s political manipulation of Californians’ Constitutional rights of direct democracy.
Harris favors the repeal of MICRA, so she cloaks this unpopular initiative under a misleading summary. She has consistently positioned herself to the left of Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, building her base of support to run for Governor—trial attorneys fund campaigns.
Anyone who knows the law and its impact on the public understands the difference between taking action based on the law, versus being a politician and pandering about the way things ought to be. This type of manipulation erodes the rule of law, particularly California’s constitution.
I have represented physicians, medical groups and Ambulatory Surgical Centers in matters of corporate, general business and regulatory compliance for the past ten years of my 17-year legal career. I am also a CPA who understands the unique profession of medicine, and I know that California’s excessive regulation diverts resources from patient care.
By lowering healthcare costs, MICRA has improved Californians’ access to care. No less than 28 other states followed California’s example by limiting non-economic damage awards.
With the support of trial attorneys, Harris has sanctioned a misleading summary for the “Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014.” The ballot summary focuses on drug and alcohol testing of doctors, checking a patient prescription database and only then notes that the initiative will increase the MICRA cap.
Voters are left with a false choice: opposing the initiative suggests they reject drug-testing and requiring a query of patients’ existing prescriptions prior to prescribing controlled medications.
The obvious flaws in the “drug prescription controls” included in the “Pack MICRA-Repeal Initiative” betray its underhanded purpose. “CURES” is a database searched by physicians prior to issuing patients prescriptions of certain controlled substances. The Pack MICRA-Repeal Act would require doctors to search the state’s CURES database prior to writing a prescription for such drugs.
However, the Pack MICRA-Repeal Act includes no requirement that physicians register to use the database. In a glaring omission, the Pack MICRA-Repeal Act does not require physicians to enter any information about the drugs they prescribe into the database. Thus, doctors would be required to search and rely upon a database which might have no record of the prescriptions other doctors have written. This bears all the wisdom of checking the mechanics of a car without opening the hood.
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians: “Make no mistake, this is about rolling back MICRA by more than quadrupling the current cap, with more increases for the foreseeable future. Unless defeated, the measure will be costly for consumers and taxpayers, and would reduce access to care for patients.”
The U-T San Diego editorial board concluded “Attorney General Kamala Harris intentionally deceived ballot signers by highlighting one of the fig leaves that trial lawyers attached to the measure to hide their real intent.”
The initiative would increase exponentially the number of malpractice lawsuits, raising insurance premiums, reducing the services offered by doctors, driving doctors out of California or into retirement. The Pack MICRA-Repeal Act would reduce Californians’ access to healthcare.