A TV political ad opposing Proposition 46 in California opens with black silhouettes of plaintiff lawyers shaking hands. In a later frame, a worried older woman opens a medical bill. A doctor in an empty hallway shakes his head.
Opponents of Proposition 46, who backed the ad, say it accurately portrays what will happen if Californians vote Tuesday in favor of the ballot initiative supported by plaintiff lawyers and patient advocacy groups. Among other things, the measure would raise the cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits from $250,000 to $1.1 million and index the cap to inflation.
They argue that raising that cap—which hasn't been increased since it was approved in 1975—would cause doctors' medical liability insurance premiums to rise. Those costs, they say, would then be passed on to consumers.
“With millions of new patients entering the healthcare delivery system, there isn't a worse possible time to increase healthcare costs and decrease access to care,” said Molly Weedn, a spokeswoman for the California Medical Association, which opposes Proposition 46.
Physician, insurance and business groups have long argued that soaring medical liability costs have substantially driven up U.S. healthcare costs. They are worried about the symbolism of raising the cap in California, the first state to establish limits on damages and the model for many other states. Congressional Republicans also continue to call for malpractice damage caps as a key part of their healthcare reform proposals.