Californians to vote on medical malpractice cap in November

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May 16, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

California
On May 15, 2014, the California Secretary of State certified what may be, according to some commentators, the most expensive initiative of 2014, namely, the Increase in Cap on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Initiative.[1][2] The measure would, upon voter approval, increase the state's cap on medical malpractice lawsuits from $250,000, which was instituted in 1975, to $1,100,000. The initiative's proposed cap is based on the inflation of the $250,000. The initiative would also require the drug and alcohol testing of health care practitioners and the suspension of practitioners who fail the tests. Lastly, the measure would require doctors to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.[3] Supporters refer to the initiative as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014, after two children who were killed by a driver under the influence of abused prescription drugs.[2]

The initiated state statute, as stated by the Los Angeles Times, is likely to pit “insurance companies and medical providers," who are against the measure, "against consumer advocates and trial lawyers,” who are for the measure.[4] Both trial lawyers and insurance companies are known to contribute tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions and political lobbying each year.[5] Opponents have already accumulated $33 million in 2014, while supporters have received just under $700,000.[4] US Senator Barbara Boxer (D) has endorsed the initiative.[6]

Supporters of the initiative obtained, according to the state’s final random signature sample, 844,038 signatures of which 587,554 were valid. Therefore, 69.69% of all collected signatures were deemed valid.[7] Proponents were required to collect 504,760 valid signatures in order to put their initiative on the ballot. They exceeded that requirement by 14.09%.

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