Proposition 46 that was intended to change California’s medical malpractice law, has failed. It was supposed to raise the limit on lawsuit awards for pain and suffering from $250,000 to about $1.1 million, in order to account for inflation, since the cap was implemented back in 1975. The California question, Proposition 46, actually has 2 other additional parts: it would also institute random drug-testing of physicians, as well as require physicians to use a prescription database that proponents say would cut down on medical errors and prescription drug abuse.
The defeat of Proposition 46 came after a hefty negative advertising financed by insurance and physician groups. They warned the change would send medical costs soaring and drive doctors from the state. Victims of medical malpractice, and their lawyers, pushed to raise the cap because they say it limits victims’ ability to find representation, especially when that victim is elderly or a child and cannot claim lost wages or other economic damages. Insurers said this would drive up the costs of premiums.
“In this health care environment, undermining California’s long-standing malpractice cap is a political poison pill,” Dustin Corcoran, chief executive of the California Medical Association and chairman of the No on 46 campaign, said in a statement. “Increasing payouts in medical lawsuits would have increased health care costs.”
Moreover the other two pieces of Prop. 46 focused more directly on doctors. The measure would have required doctors to check a statewide database of drug prescriptions before issuing new prescriptions for narcotics, and would have required them to undergo random drug and alcohol testing.
Major medical malpractice insurers in the state were among the largest contributors to the “no” campaign, which raised $57.5 million, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that tracks campaign contributions. Proponents of the measure, mostly lawyers, raised $8.5 million to promote the measure.
“It’s as if you had a giant wall-sized TV screen on your left and a tiny cellphone screen on your right. And you as a voter are in the middle trying to make a decision,” says Daniel G. Newman, president and co-founder of MapLight. “You’re going to be overwhelmingly influenced by the giant TV screen, or the side that spends an overwhelming amount of money.”
Opponents also say the law is worded too broadly and is little more than a stealth attempt to pave the way for full legalization of marijuana in the state. Both the California and Florida questions appeared unlikely to pass heading into election day. According to the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 46 has just 37% support among likely voters. In Florida, a Tampa Bay Times poll found Amendment 2 has 46% support in Florida. However, because it is a constitutional amendment, it would need 60% approval to pass.