By Victoria Colliver, POLITICO PRO

April 30, 2020

OAKLAND — Proponents of an initiative to increase California's medical malpractice compensation cap dropped their November 2020 effort today, the latest ballot proposal to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Backers said they had collected nearly a million signatures, but decided to push the vote to November 2022. They are trying to revamp the 45-year-old Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA.

“Voters are overwhelmed with trying to keep their families safe and deal with the economic impacts of Covid-19,” said Scott Olsen, whose son was disabled for life by what he says was medical negligence more than two decades ago, in a statement. Olsen is a board member of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based group promoting the measure funded primarily by a wealthy trial lawyer who also said his son was a victim of medical malpractice.

The measure would adjust for inflation the maximum $250,000 compensation cap set by the California Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 — initially raising it to $1.2 million for people injured as a result "non-economic" damages, or pain and suffering, from catastrophic injury or death. Supporters of the effort to revamp MICRA said the current cap limits the value of the compensation limit to about $50,768 in 1975 dollars.

Opponents of MICRA changes in the past, which include the California Medical Association, have argued that raising the cap would hurt patient access to care and that the proposals were intended to help trial lawyers more than victims.

Consumer Watchdog backed a previous ballot measure in 2014, Proposition 46, to raise the MICRA cap on damages for pain and suffering that failed miserably.

Proponents of the latest attempt said they will submit their 988,000 signatures in the middle of May for the 2022 ballot instead of aiming for the 2020 ballot. They have until June 1 to turn them in or risk having those signatures expire, but would have had to submit them by the beginning of May to give the counties time to certify them in time for the November 2020 ballot.

“In a pandemic, it is really hard to get a message out about medical insurance accountability,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

Backers of an proposed initiative to boost plastic recycling also plan to push their measure back to November 2022.