MICRA Ballot Initiative Moves Forward

The Association of California Healthcare Districts has joined a broad and bipartisan coalition of doctors, community health centers, healthcare districts, hospitals, local governments, and public safety, business and labor groups to fight a November 2014 ballot proposition that will make it easier and more profitable for lawyers to sue health care providers like doctors and hospitals. Under this measure, lawyers will make more money, but providers, consumers and taxpayers will see higher health care costs and reduced access to health care services.

The measure’s main provision will quadruple the non-economic damages cap on California’s successful Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), the law that applies in legal proceedings if someone is injured as a result of medical treatment. This single change will triple lawyers’ legal fees in the non-economic damages portion of health care lawsuits.

The measure contains two other provisions dealing with drug testing and prescription drug databases which have been included to act as a voter sweetener, an attempt to disguise the MICRA change and the financial benefit to lawyers. One of supporters of the proposition even admitted to it. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The drug rules are in the initiative because they poll well, and the backers figure that’s the way to get the public to support the measure. ‘It’s the ultimate sweetener,’ says Jamie Court, the head of Consumer Watchdog.”

Here’s why the Lawyers’ Health Care Lawsuit Ballot Measure should be rejected:

CONSEQUENCES OF THE LAWYERS’ MEASURE ARE COSTLY AND DISRUPTIVE TO PATIENTS

This ballot measure will be costly for providers, consumers and taxpayers

If medical lawsuits are increased, somebody has to pay, and that will be physicians through higher liability rates. Today, California has among the lowest medical liability rates in the nation.

Consumers and taxpayers also will feel the hit. According to a study by California’s former Legislative Analyst, this proposition will increase health care costs across all sectors by $9.9 billion annually, or about $1,000 for a family of four. Furthermore, California’s current independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) warns the proposition could increase state and local government medical liability and health care costs by “hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

This ballot measure will also jeopardize patient access to quality health care

As you know, cost pressures on health care providers could cause doctors to leave the state and practice in places where malpractice insurance rates are lower. Many people could lose their personal physician if this measure were to become law.

Community health centers, like Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, say this measure will raise insurance costs that will cause specialists, including OBGYNs, to reduce or eliminate services to their patients. Finding doctors to deliver babies in rural areas and work in community clinics is already difficult, and reducing services will make a bad situation worse.

Additional Problems for Health Care Providers

CURES Database Problems Could Jeopardize Patient Access to Needed Medications:  The current Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) database lacks important functionality, preventing doctors and other prescribing health care providers from complying with the provisions in the trial lawyers’ health care lawsuit ballot measure – thus jeopardizing patient access to needed medications.

The proposition mandates that licensed health care practitioners and pharmacists consult the CURES database prior to prescribing or dispensing Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substances. This new mandate takes effect the day after the November 2014 election – an impossible implementation timeline given the current state of CURES.

Without an upgraded CURES database and improved functionality, prescribing health care providers and pharmacists would be legally required to use a database that has, in practice, not been available. According to a recent review of the CURES database and the provisions in the ballot measure, “providers would face the choice of denying treatment to their patients or violating the stated terms of the initiative.

Provisions Impose A Presumption Of Professional Negligence: This ballot measure also flips on its head “innocent until proven guilty,” and instead institutes a presumption of professional negligence in any action against a health care provider arising from:

  • an act or omission by a physician or surgeon who tested positive for drugs or alcohol
  • an act or omission by a physician or surgeon who refused or failed to take a test for drugs or alcohol
  • the failure of a health care practitioner to comply with the mandatory CURES rules

Jeopardizes the privacy of our personal health information and patient access to prescription medications

This measure mandates use of a government database with personal information on patients’ prescription drug history.  California has a poor track record with government databases, which jeopardizes the privacy of our personal health information. Furthermore, when this database crashes, and it will, people could have trouble getting their necessary prescriptions from their doctor or pharmacy.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED.

Please join ACHD and become an official member of Patients and Providers to Protect Access and Contain Health Costs, the campaign to oppose the trial-lawyer-sponsored ballot measure that will increase health care costs and reduce patient access to care.

To join, visit the No campaign website. From the website you can:

  • Send an email to your organization’s members, to your friends and/or to your colleagues encouraging them to join the campaign to oppose the measure
  • Contribute to the campaign to help fight the trial lawyers
  • Be part of our outreach team. If you have direct patient contact, become part of our outreach team. Send an email to info@stophigherhealthcarecosts.com. Our campaign will enroll you in a special provider outreach program. You’ll receive talking points and other materials to help you explain to your patients why they should oppose this flawed ballot measure
  • Participate in message/media training. The campaign is also looking for physicians interested in taking on a more public role speaking to community groups about why this ballot measure should be defeated. Send an email to info@stophigherhealthcarecosts.com if you want to participate in the media training being offered by the campaign.
  • Get important facts, downloads and information that will help you spread the word about this costly measure

 

We urge you to get the facts and join the coalition opposed to this measure by visiting www.StopHigherHealthCareCosts.com.

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