California's low medical malpractice cap is the hot item in a proposed ballot initiative filed Thursday, but the measure also seeks to stop physician drug abuse and keep doctors from over-prescribing pain medications.
Dubbed the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, the measure seeks to address the reasons for a family tragedy caused when a drugged driver who doctor-shopped for painkillers killed the two children on a roadside nine years ago.
In the wake of the tragedy, Bob Pack, the children’s father, found Kaiser Permanente doctors had no idea they were over-prescribing to the same doctor shopper. He drew on his technology background to develop an electronic database known as CURES that tracks prescriptions.
The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System has an online database of more than 100 million entries, but state budget woes have decimated staff to run the program and few doctors use it.
The proposed ballot initiative would:
- Require doctors to check the CURES database before writing a patient prescription for a controlled substance for the first time, and if a patient has a prescription, determine there is a legitimate need for the medication
- Require random drug and alcohol testing for doctors and mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors after an unexpected death or injury occurs
- Require doctors who witness medical negligence or substance abuse by physicians to report it
- Require any doctor who tests positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty or who refuses to submit to testing be temporarily suspended from the practice of medicine pending an investigation and
- Require hospitals to report any verified positive results of drug and alcohol testing to the California Medical Board
“This ballot measure begins to even the balance of power for innocent patients who are victimized by medical negligence and protects against dangerous and drug-abusing doctors,” Pack said in a news release. “It’s a simple and reasonable step forward that the Legislature should have taken decades ago.”
Californians Allied for Patient Protection, a coalition of doctors, hospitals, nurses and others who oppose lifting the medical malpractice cap, dismissed these protections as “window dressing” related to drug testing and prescription drugs when the real intent is to lift the medical malpractice cap.
Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal.