Senator becomes highest-profile endorsement of measure to fix broken malpractice system
by Brian Leubitz
In a perfect world, we certainly wouldn’t be discussing medical malpractice reform. However, California’s law on the subject is far from the perfect world. For many victims of medical malpractice, it is cost prohibitive to seek justice. The costs of trial become too expensive to pursue the case, and many victims find it difficult to find an attorney that can handle the case. There are a litany of other reasons MICRA is broken, but you can read more about MICRA in my previous post on the subject https://calitics.com/diary/…
The short story being that the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages hasn’t been adjusted for inflation for over 35 years, and that cap means that many victims won’t be able to get the justice that they need. Specifically, cases that are brought by people unable to show a steady stream of income are punished by this hard cap. So, children, senior citizens and the disabled are put in a real position of danger.
Now, to be clear, there are some good organizations on the other side of this issue. Planned Parenthood drew fire on its decision to oppose MICRA reform. Their logic on their position sounds good but the facts just don’t back up the position. Essentially, Planned Parenthood argues that changing the hard caps on malpractice damages will reduce doctor supply and vastly increase malpractice insurance. But the real data show that neither of these suppositions to be correct. Again, I point you to my previous writing or to the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik on the subject:
Over the last 22 years, California malpractice insurers have paid out in claims an average of only 36 cents of every premium dollar they’ve collected, according to Insurance Department statistics. For comparison’s sake, for all property and casualty insurance lines the figure is 62 cents; for passenger auto insurers alone it’s more than 60 cents.(LA Times / Michael Hiltzik)
So, yeah, the reason that malpractice insurance premiums are rising? That would be a massive profit level for the insurance companies. But I digress.
The supporters of the Troy and Alana Pack Act recently submitted nearly 850,000 signatures to get their bill on the November ballot. Essentially the measure would adjust for inflation since the date of the 250,000 cap and permanently index the cap to inflation. It was something that was originally included in the MICRA legislation, but cut later in the legislative process. The Pack Act now has a big name supporter: Senator Barbara Boxer.
“I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice,” Senator Boxer stated. “I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies. That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve.”
Seven year old Alana Pack and ten year old Troy Pack were killed on a roadside by a doctor-shopping drug addict who ran them over after being overprescribed thousands of narcotics at Kaiser and falling asleep at the wheel. Their father Bob Pack authored the Pack Act to increase accountability for medical negligence and substance abuse.
You can learn more about the Pack Act on their website.