Reality Check: New Anti-Prop. 46 Ad Misleads With Database Scare

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Proposition 46 would raise California's cap on "pain and suffering" damages in medical malpractice cases from $250,000, set in 1975, so that the cap is indexed to inflation; require doctors to submit to random drug testing; and require doctors to consult a state database to prevent "doctor shopping" by prescription drug abusers.


The campaign against the measure– funded with almost $92 million, most of which is coming from insurance companies and health care providers — is airing a 30-second television ad questioning the measure's privacy protections.


What does the ad say?





A female narrator warns of "a secret inside Proposition 46, a troubling provision that puts your personal medical information at risk." A male narrator then says the measure "requires doctors to consult a vulnerable government-run database containing your personal prescription drug history, open to law enforcement, hackers, identity thieves or simply accidents. And there's no money in Prop. 46 to secure the database." The female narrator returns and says: "Invading our privacy — another serious risk, and why to vote no on Prop. 46."


Among the ad's visuals is a headline that says, "Hospital network hacked, 4.5 million records stolen," with a citation to an Aug. 18 CNN Money story.


Is it true?

The ad is shamelessly deceptive.

The database the ad is referring to has existed since 1997 and has not been controversial. The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) contains 100 million entries of controlled substances that were dispensed in California. It is routinely checked more than 60,000 times per year by doctors and pharmacists. A bill that shored up funding to update and maintain CURES was passed by the state Legislature last year with only one dissenting vote before being signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

There have been no reports of the database being hacked or data being disclosed to unauthorized people. And the article cited in the ad is actually about a hacking incident that affected Community Health Systems, a company that operates 206 hospitals nationwide, including three in California.

The company has contributed $340,000 in the past year to the California Hospitals Committee on Issues, an initiative committee that is sponsored by the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. The committee has given $5 million to the No on 46 campaign, and the association has given $2.5 million.

So the ad cites a data breach at an entity that indirectly helped fund the ad.

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