The date is Monday May 19, 2014. I have just finished listening to excerpts from a speech by Governor Jerry Brown. Although I usually listen to political statements, speeches and answers from the right side of the microphone I’ll admit that Democratic Gov. Brown is doing a good job. Today, Brown reminded us of all the problems the state faces from losing jobs, climate change, pollution, draught, record number of companies leaving California, insecurity from impending Obamacare regulations, and medical malpractice (plus increased medical costs and reduced care).
Neither Superman, Batman, Captain America, Noah or Godzilla turned benefactor could solve this many issues.
At one time during circumstances similar to the above, we in Newport Beach could look to an honorable legal profession to provide some legislative relief. But not anymore. Even with quality checks in place, to ensure that physicians provided the highest of medical services, they were hit with medical malpractice lawsuits. These lawsuits ranged in size and cost, but they have all been under the standards set forth by MICRA, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Since 1975, it has helped keep malpractice premiums in check and has reduced abusive lawsuits. However, today there is a ballot measure that was just approved for the November ballot that will change all of this, and in turn lead to more lawsuits against hospitals and physicians and higher costs for everyone.
The initiative seeks to raise the current cap on non-economic damages under MICRA. And while proponents will want to talk about anything but the increase in this cap, at the end of the day, that’s the single goal of this initiative. Why? To expand the money clips and wallets in the pockets of trial lawyers.
That last statement is not just my opinion, but a fact. A January study by the California Medical Association found that raising the current cap on non-economic damages would increase the cost of health care in California by $9.9 billion. Who will pay for that? You and I will, through higher health insurance premiums and co-pays.
What’s more, state and local governments will see their health care costs skyrocket as well, and that cost will also be covered by taxpayers like you and me.
For a four-person household, this will equate to about $1,000 in additional health care costs. That money will go to the pants of trial lawyers who will file more lawsuits seeking fatter paydays. No wonder they are the biggest supporters of this initiative and the profit it offers them –- even if it comes in the form of higher costs for everyone else.
Perhaps worst of all, this initiative will reduce access to medical care across the state. Medical professionals and physicians who otherwise love to work and live in California will be forced by higher insurance costs to go elsewhere. Likewise, community clinics that serve the most vulnerable in our society will be forced to reduce services or shut down altogether due to the higher insurance premiums.
I do support holding doctors accountable when they are making life or death decisions. However, as a doctor, patient, and taxpayer, I encourage you to vote no on this misleading initiative. California needs to increase access to medical care and decrease the number of frivolous lawsuits.
So why do you believe the CMA? Just because they say it?
22 states have no medical tort reform (like MICRA) and 13 have found it to be unconstitutional. None of those states have any of the problems that the CMA says will happen here if we raise costs. Arizona has no tort reform and has lower healthcare costs than we do here, as do Oregon an Washington. That’s just part of the propaganda spewed by the CMA in order to protect negligent doctors from lawsuits and prevent victims from holding them accountable.
It also will NOT reduce access to medical care…that’s simply absurd. In 1975 when MICRA was instituted, the CMA came out with a similar lie that doctors were leaving the states in droves. The NY Times published an article 11 years later proving that 5/10 of 1% actually left.
The CMA, the doctors and the insurance companies have a definite agenda to keep MICRA in place. But are you really willing to not be able to find a lawyer to represent you should you be severely harmed in a hospital by a doctor, simply to protect the negligent ones?
It is clear that Dr. Glueck doesn’t like the idea of increasing the amount malpractice victims can be compensated. But he is wrong when he says increasing the cap would increase costs. It won’t. It will simply shift the existing costs currently borne by the malpractice victims themselves, their health insurance companies, and the taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid to the physicians who cause the malpractice injuries and their malpractice insurance companies. The people causing the problems ought to pay the costs, and those people are the physicians, not the victims.
Inflation has reduced the real value of the MICRA-capped payment so much that the elderly, children, non-working spouses, etc. — anyone not earning an income — simply is unable to bring a malpractice suit when they are injured. It isn’t fair. If $250,000 was a reasonable cap and supported by physicians in 1975, then $250,000 adjusted for inflation ought to be a reasonable cap in 2014, and physicians ought to support it in the interest of fairness for their patients. Physicians opposing the increase are simply looking out for themselves rather than their patients.