Proposition 46 the California (CA) measure that would have created greater accountability for medical negligencewas rejected by voters. The measure would have indexed a 38-year-old cap on damages for inflation and detecting and deterring physicians’ over-prescribing and substance abuse. The initiative would have also raised the existing cap on damages to $1.1 million, giving children and seniors who cannot demonstrate lost wages as a result of their injuries a chance to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their mistakes.
As a Virginia (VA) medical malpractice attorney the decision disappoints me but I’m not surprised. Opponents, mostly hospitals, doctors and health insurance companies donated $100 million to defeat the measure, flooded the airwaves and voter mailboxes, claiming the initiative was a ploy for lawyers to make money and boost health care costs. The initiative also would have required drug and alcohol testing of doctors and mandated that physicians consult a state database to prevent their patients from “doctor shopping” for prescriptions.
Time and time again doctors and insurance companies have propogated myths about medical malpractice at the expense of victims. Here are a couple of myths that their $100 million dollars of ad campaigns touted as the truth.
Myth #1: Malpractice claims drive up health care
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total spent defending claims and compensating victims of medical negligence in 2007 was $7.1 billion—just 0.3% of health care costs. Which means the direct costs associated with medical malpractice are a tiny fraction of health care costs.
Myth #2: Malpractice claims drive up doctors premiums
Research has found that there is little correlation between malpractice pay and malpractice premiums paid by doctors. Instead these rate increases were driven by declining interest rates and investments.
Tort reforms are passed under the guise that they will lower physicians’ liability premium. This does not happen. While insurers do pay out less money when damages awards are capped they do not pass the savings along to doctors.