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Washington Negligent Healthcare Act, Initiative 330 (2005)

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The Washington Negligent Health Care Act, also known as Initiative 330, was on the November 8, 2005 election ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature, where it was defeated. The objective of the measure was to limit non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $350,000, limit attorney fees, and make other changes to healthcare liability laws.

Election results

Washington Initiative 330 (2005)
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No1,027,11756.7%
Yes 783,435 43.3%

Election results via the Washington Secretary of State.[1]

Text of the measure

The language that appeared on the ballot:[2]

Initiative Measure No. 912 concerns motor vehicle fuel taxes.

This measure would repeal motor vehicle fuel tax increases of 3 cents in 2005 and 2006, 2 cents in 2007, and 1.5 cents per gallon in 2008, enacted in 2005 for transportation purposes.

Should this measure be enacted into law?[3]

Fiscal impact statement

The 2005 State of Washington Voter Pamphlet lists the fiscal impact statement as follows:

Summary of Fiscal Impact

Initiative 330 would establish restrictions in medical malpractice lawsuits, which may reduce the number of malpractice suits in state courts, lower the number of claims against the state and reduce state insurance-premium costs. The restrictions also may reduce liability and premium costs to local governments. However, conflicting research offers no clear guidance for estimating the magnitude of these potential reductions in state and local government costs. The Initiative also would limit state recovery of worker compensation costs in cases of medical malpractice, costing the Workers Compensation Program an estimated $500,000 to $2 million a year.

Assumptions for Fiscal Analysis of I-330

Initiative 330 could reduce costs to the Office of the Administrator of the Courts because the number of hearings in Superior Court related to health care injury or death claims may be reduced. The Initiative also could reduce costs for state and local governments that purchase health insurance for employees or social service programs because it could reduce health insurance premiums and payouts from self-insured tort liability funds. Various studies have been conducted to determine how changes in law affecting tort liability and insurance can affect costs for courts, insurance premiums and health care. However, individual study results vary widely, predicting no change or both lower and higher costs in these areas. Due to the conflicting research, there is no clear guidance for estimating the magnitude of the fiscal impact of potential reductions on court costs or insurance premiums. Initiative provisions would result in a loss of $500,000 to $2 million a year in the Department of Labor and Industries’ Workers Compensation Program. That is because the Initiative would prevent the agency from collecting costs incurred after an injured worker is re-injured due to medical malpractice.[3]

Support

These arguments in support appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[4]

Doctors, nurses, and over 320,000 patients who signed petitions placing I-330 on the ballot are united in support of its reforms. I-330 improves health care access, and puts patients’ needs ahead of personal injury lawyers.

KEEP DOCTORS IN WASHINGTON

Lawsuits by greedy personal injury lawyers force medical liability premiums up and force doctors to restrict services or move out of Washington – even if they’ve never been sued. Over half of Washington doctors statewide have had to refer patients to new physicians for services they can no longer offer. I-330 will keep doctors in Washington and increase health care access.

PUTTING PATIENTS FIRST

I-330 establishes a reasonable cap on noneconomic, “pain-and-suffering,” damages of $350,000 to $1,050,000. Under I-330, juries will be able to award unlimited economic damages, enabling patients to recover all medical costs, all current and future lost income, the cost of prescription drugs, and other family needs.I-330 allows doctors and patients to choose arbitration or mediation instead of costly court battles; everyone will benefit from speedier resolution and lower fees for personal injury lawyers.

LESS MONEY FOR PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS

I-330 limits fees for personal injury lawyers using a sliding scale: the higher the award, the more money goes to the injured patient.Right now, there is no limit on how much money personal injury lawyers can collect, and many routinely receive 40% or more of what juries thought they were setting aside for injured patients!

Vote Yes on I-330.

For more information, visit www.yesoni330.org or call 877.740.0177.

Rebuttal of Statement Against

Our opponents’ arguments are a collection of smokescreens, half-truths and misleading soundbites, but what else would you expect from a campaign run by trial lawyers? I-330 clearly states “damages awarded for loss of future earnings may not be reduced or payments terminated by reason of the death of the judgment creditor.” (Section 10, subsection 4) And I-330 requires patients’ voluntary consent before arbitration. (Section 8)

Don’t buy the lawyers’ lies, visit www.theirlipsaremoving.com. I-330: Vote Yes![3]

The argument in support was prepared by Kenneth Isaacs, Marianne Tefft, Cynthia Markus, Dana Wallace, and state senator Timothy Sheldon.

Opposition

These arguments in opposition appeared in the official State of Washington Voter Guide:[5]

BEFORE YOU VOTE ON I-330, BE SURE TO READ THE FINE PRINT.

There is a big difference between the ballot description of I-330 and the actual Initiative. I-330 contains 20 pages of fine print. Read it at www.TruthInTheFinePrint.com .

I-330 GIVES THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY MANY HIDDEN BENEFITS AT YOUR EXPENSE.

  • I-330 allows the insurance industry to pay money they owe you over a period of twenty or thirty years or longer. If you die before they pay what they owe, the insurance company gets to keep your money instead of paying it to your family. [Section 10(4)]
  • The insurance industry is raising rates while making record profits. [State Insurance Commissioner 03/01/2005]. Even if I-330 passes, they still don’t have to lower doctors’ insurance rates. Insurance rates aren’t even mentioned in I-330. [I-330, Full Text]

I-330 WOULD FORCE YOU TO GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO YOUR DAY IN COURT.

  • Under I-330, before you can get health insurance, medical care or a prescription, HMOs, insurance companies, and hospitals can force you to sign a mandatory binding arbitration contract saying, “By signing this contract you are agreeing to have any issue of malpractice decided by neutral arbitration and you are giving up your right to a jury or court trial.” This also applies to nursing and veterans homes. [Section 8(2)]
  • Under I-330, the cap on damages applies to all cases of medical negligence, regardless of how bad the negligence or how serious the injury. There are no exceptions even in serious cases of true medical negligence resulting in brain damage, loss of limb, permanent paralysis, or death. I-330 shields the few doctors who repeatedly cause serious injuries. Because I-330 allows continued secrecy, you can never learn who they are. [Section 2(1)]

VOTE NO ON I-330 – IT’S THE WRONG SOLUTION. READ THE FINE PRINT.

For more information, visit www.TruthInTheFinePrint.org or call 206.697.4744.

Rebuttal of Statement For

I-330: so bad for patients and taxpayers that seniors, nurses, firefighters and veterans oppose it. Read the fine print: real cap is $350,000, no exceptions for true medical negligence causing severe injuries; insurance industry keeps the money they owe your families if you die; insurers can force you to give up your day in court to get medical care or prescriptions; insurance industry not required to lower rates.

  • The wrong solution. No on I-330[3]

The argument in opposition was prepared by Eileen Cody, Cheryl Marshall, Mike Kreidler, Kelly Fox, Sheila Malmberg, and Will Parry.

Path to the ballot

The language for I-330 was filed on June 17, 2004 by Dr. Jeffrey B. Collins of Olympia. Its supporters collected 319,146 signatures to qualify it for consideration by the Washington State Legislature. The legislature declined to enact I-330 and it was referred to a statewide vote of the people.

A pre-emptive legal challenge from opponents sought to have the measure removed from the ballot before it could be voted on. In the case of Coppernoll v. Reed, the Washington Supreme Court kept it on the ballot, saying that the time for constitutional challenges to ballot initiatives is if and when they pass, not before.

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