I’ve written a couple of times about MICRA, a provision of California law that limits non-econimic damages, pain & suffering and the like, to $250,000. That law was passed in 1975, and the amount has not been updated since that time. Litigation costs and inflation have made that number look paltry today. In fact, few attorneys will take malpractice claims. The expenses they have to front aren’t covered by the cases that they win. And so, it isn’t surprising today to find families who have lost a family member due to malpractice, even shockingly obvious cases, unable to find an attorney. As a result, doctors that would have been booted out of the profession by a malpractice suit, continue to practice.
Of course, the response to that could be that regulators could watch doctors and ensure quality. And if wishes were horses, I’d have more mustangs than the Nevada herds. The fact is that in the last thirty years, government oversight in all things consumer has been sorely lacking in the state and the country as a whole. Toys covered with lead are stocked on our shelves, and doctors avoid losing their licenses all the time. Is this the system that we want to lay 100% of our faith in? Yes, we should have a robust regulatory scheme for doctors, but we also must recognize that doctors can’t always self-regulate. Courts serve a purpose.
And while it’s seemingly not a popular message in Sacramento these days, MICRA needs to repealed or reformed. Thankfully, consumers have an ally in Speaker Pelosi.
The version of a national health care bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through the House contains a provision that would push – but not quite compel – California and other states with malpractice damage caps to repeal them.(SacBee 11/30/09)
Dan Walters and I share one thing, we are both a teensy bit cynical. He sees this as a gift to lawyers, while I see it as a way to balance out the power differential between patient and medical infrastructure. Not quite the most optimal way, but if President Obama is going to push on tort deform, at least we can quit focusing on gifts to industry and instead try to figure out how we can structure a system to actually achieve policy goals. Ha – good luck on that one, right?
California desperately needs to change MICRA, and if Speaker Pelosi can give the state a kick in the butt, well I say kick away Madame Speaker.