Malpractice Cap, Medical Board Under Attack

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An initiative is in the works for the November 2014 ballot that seeks to repeal the $250,000 cap on damages in medical malpractice cases and overhaul the Medical Board of California.

The measure is being drafted by Consumer Watchdog and the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation, a Danville-based nonprofit started after the Pack family lost their young children in an accident that involved a drug abuser who obtained narcotics by physician prescription.

The mantra is "38 is too late," referring to the age of the cap imposed by the Medical Injury Compensation Act. Enacted in 1975, the law is better known as MICRA. Despite considerable debate over the years, the cap has never been raised to reflect current costs.

Growing numbers of attorneys decline medical malpractice cases because they are too time-intensive and costly when the payoff is so low.

"This law is so old, Jerry Brown signed it in his first term, when legislators made $22,000 per year," Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, said in a news release. "Lawmakers' salaries have gone up more than 400 percent since then, but the value of the lives of victims of medical negligence hasn't gone up
at all. Voters will have to deal with this inequity if the Legislature refuses."

Some lawmakers have tried it over the years, with no success so far.

Still in the drafting stage, reforms considered for the proposed initiative include:

· Repealing the MICRA cap on damages so decisions are made case-by-case by juries

· Overhauling the Medical Board of California to create a public member majority, put more information online,transfer investigative powers to the Office of the Attorney General and end the board role in license removal

· Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors like truck drivers and others undergo

· Full funding for an online data system that tracks prescriptions for controlled substances, with regular reporting to the Office of the Attorney General; mandatory field investigations of doctors who are outliers in terms of prescribing habits and mandatory curbs on prescription privileges for doctors involved in overdose deaths.

Some of the proposed provisions respond to a public hearing in Sacramento in March, where parents mobbed the room with tales of doctors who overprescribed opiates to their children.

The Medical Board of California is facing scrutiny by California lawmakers who must reauthorize the program by year-end, change it – or pull the plug.

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