Cal Matters: Medical Malpractice Ballot Measure Would Benefit Lawyers

Perhaps more than any state in America, California continues to make progress toward the historic promise of health access for all.

Vital to that prognosis has been our state’s community health centers, located in medically underserved communities and providing diverse, vulnerable populations with primary and reproductive care.

Pandemic-related stresses on our overall health system, including the most recent hospitalization surge, has underscored the safety-net imperative of a strong and financially solvent system of community clinics.

It would be hard to imagine a worse possible time to pass a ballot measure that would disrupt the financing of California’s community health centers and access to the physicians and other clinicians providing essential care to Californians in need while increasing health costs for every Californian. But that’s what the proponents of the misleadingly self-proclaimed Fairness for Injured Patients Act, or Changes to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap Initiative, appearing on the statewide ballot in November are trying to do.

This measure would dramatically impact the cost and delivery of health care in California – but it’s not written by health experts or real-life medical practitioners. Instead it was drafted to allow a few to make millions more from filing personal injury lawsuits.

What’s worse, is that supporters are not saying what this measure would truly do.

For many years, California’s medical liability system has been protected by a bipartisan series of laws called MICRA, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which has balanced the rights of injured patients while keeping health care more accessible and affordable for all patients.

While injured patients can receive unlimited payments for economic losses and medical expenses, there is a “cap” on non-economic damages. Despite what proponents are saying, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act would dramatically overhaul our health system far beyond a simple increase in the MICRA cap.

In fact, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act brazenly creates a new category of injury with no cap whatsoever – which is broadly defined and can include outcomes as innocuous as unwanted scarring. This is the loophole that would effectively obliterate the MICRA cap and start a mad dash by enterprising attorneys filing countless new lawsuits in already overcrowded courts.

To no one’s surprise, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act’s fine print stealthily removes all existing caps on attorney’s fees, resulting in huge financial windfalls for trial lawyers who sue doctors, nurses, clinicians and other health providers for a living. It also creates a new process that prohibits judges from independently verifying the truthfulness of statements made by trial attorneys in the initial court filings – another incentive for more frivolous lawsuits.

And who pays for this onslaught of new lawsuits and attorney payouts? The rest of us. The initiative would place an unmanageable burden on our health care delivery system at a time when many of our community health centers are already operating on razor thin margins and are faced with staffing shortages.

Taxpayers are on the hook as well. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office said the Fairness for Injured Patients Act “would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” including “annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The trickle-down effect of this measure would result in community clinics closing their doors, essential health services being slashed and health care providers having to limit new patients. The hardest impact will be felt by women, communities of color and individuals with special needs – all when we should be reducing health inequities and expanding access to health care for those who need it most.

That’s why hundreds of organizations have already signed up to oppose the Fairness for Injured Patients Act in November.

Clinicians, physicians, nurses, dentists, community clinics, health centers, hospitals, public safety organizations and other frontline health care workers across the state are urging voters to say “No” to this dangerous, costly measure.

Kerry Hydash is the president and CEO of the Family Healthcare Network, a Central Valley network. Hydash is the board chair for Central Valley Health Network, founder of Advocates for Community Health and serves on the board for the California Primary Care Association.

Local San Diego Groups Join Mounting Opposition to Trial Attorney Funded Measure and Urge “No” Vote Next November

Sacramento, CA – Local San Diego groups San Ysidro Health and San Diego County Medical Society have signed on in opposition to the so called “Fairness for Injured Patients Act,” an initiative that would raise healthcare costs and reduce access to care across the state. The groups join dozens of community clinics, doctors, nurses, dentists and more across the state in opposing this dangerous initiative.

“San Diego is home to some of the most innovative and advanced medical care our country has to offer,” said Kevin Mattson, President and Chief Executive Officer of San Ysidro Health. “But in San Diego, we also rely on a network of community health centers to ensure some of our most vulnerable populations have access to affordable healthcare. Many of these health centers are already operating on razor thin margins and a ballot measure like this, that would cost millions each year, could force clinics to reduce services or close their doors altogether.”

The initiative, funded primarily by a wealthy out-of-state trial attorney, will appear on the November 2022 ballot. As written, the measure would effectively eliminate California’s medical lawsuit limits by creating a new and broadly defined category of malpractice lawsuits, which would result in financial windfalls for California’s trial attorneys, hurting California’s most vulnerable patients.

“This measure will jeopardize healthcare for millions of Californians, especially those who rely on community health centers for their care,” Sergio Flores, M.D., President, San Diego County Medical Society. “Funders of this measure have kept secret the fact that attorneys stand to gain windfalls at the expense of patients, that essential safeguards built into our healthcare delivery system would be upended and that access to affordable healthcare would be obliterated. We must vote NO on this dangerous measure in November.”

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly voted No on Proposition 46, which would have made substantial changes in the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). This measure goes well beyond what Prop. 46 would have done and the cost to California taxpayers would be far greater, as noted by the independent Legislative Analyst Office (LAO).

“This measure would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” the LAO said, adding that, “Annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Local Central Valley Healthcare Organizations Join Mounting Opposition to Trial Attorney Funded Ballot Measure and Urge “No” Vote Next November

Fresno, CA – Today, local Central Valley healthcare organizations announced their opposition to the so-called “Fairness for Injured Patients Act,” a medical malpractice lawsuit measure on next year’s statewide ballot that could reverse regional health access gains by sharply increasing costs and reducing available care in underserved communities. The groups join more than 300 organizations in opposition, including community clinics, doctors, nurses, frontline workers and providers throughout California.

As written, the measure would effectively eliminate California’s medical lawsuit limits by creating a new and broadly defined category of malpractice lawsuits, resulting in new financial windfalls for trial attorneys, while costing the state and local communities hundreds of millions of dollars in increased health costs and increasing financial stress and provider shortages in communities, including many throughout the Central Valley. The initiative is funded primarily by a single, wealthy out-of-state trial lawyer who personally stands to be further enriched by its passage.

“FIPA would increase healthcare costs for patients and reduce access to care in our area,” said Dr. Alan G. Kelton, MD, past president of the Fresno Madera Medical Society, representing 1400 physicians across the two-county region. “We need more physicians for our health systems, and we cannot afford to lose providers through clinic closures and doctors moving out of state. That’s why I urge a NO vote on this dangerous measure.”

“Community clinics are the backbone of this region, helping to ensure our neediest patients have access to care,” said Paulo Soares, Chief Executive Officer of Camarena Health, a Madera County-based network of primary care providers and health centers, serving mostly lower-income and underserved patients, including agricultural workers. “We are already operating on razor thin margins and a measure like FIPA, which would cost our healthcare delivery system millions, forcing us to reduce services and possibly eliminate some care altogether. That’s why we are voting NO on this measure next year.”

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly voted No on Proposition 46, which would have made substantial changes in the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). This measure goes well beyond what Prop. 46 would have done and the cost to California taxpayers would be far greater, as noted by the independent Legislative Analyst Office (LAO).

“This measure would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” the LAO said, adding that, “Annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more about Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs, visit protectmicra.org.

As Hispanic Heritage Month Ends, Latinx Groups Urge “No” Vote on Trial Attorney Ballot Measure

Sacramento – As Hispanic Heritage Month ends, Latinx groups across the state are asking voters to oppose a dangerous initiative that will appear on the November 2022 ballot. The groups join more than 300 organizations in opposition, including community clinics, doctors, nurses and local groups throughout California.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the history, culture and achievements of Hispanic Americans – a time to celebrate Hispanic American champions who have worked tirelessly to fight for their communities,” said José Alberto Arévalo, MD FAAFP, Chairman, Latinx Physicians of California. “Over the last 18 months, Latinx physicians have put our lives on the line, stepping up our communities to ensure that California’s essential workforce, many of whom are Latinx, have access to the care and treatment they need. This so-called Fairness for Injured Patients Act would undermine all of that work and jeopardize our work toward health equity.”

The initiative, funded primarily by a wealthy out-of-state trial attorney, will appear on the November 2022 ballot. As written, the measure would effectively eliminate California’s medical lawsuit limits by creating a new and broadly defined category of malpractice lawsuits, which would result in financial windfalls for California’s trial attorneys, hurting California’s most vulnerable patients.

“The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Latinx community harder than most. In an already fractured healthcare delivery system, many in our community struggled to find access to timely testing and swift care. Thankfully, community clinics and non-profit based programs stepped up to not only ensure that COVID-19 related illness was addressed, but that routine medical care, vaccines and preventative health visits could happen,” said Jane Garcia, Chief Executive Officer of La Clínica de La Raza. “We must look ahead and continue championing health equity. A measure like this one would put all of that on the line. Health centers would have to cut back services and nonprofit partners would have to shift resources. We cannot allow this to happen. We must vote No next November.”

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly voted No on Proposition 46, which would have made substantial changes in the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). This measure goes well beyond what Prop. 46 would have done and the cost to California taxpayers would be far greater, as noted by the independent Legislative Analyst Office (LAO).

“This measure would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” the LAO said, adding that, “Annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more information about Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs, please visit protectmicra.org.

Opposition Mounts to Trial Attorney Funded Measure as Chinese American Physician Society and Philippine Medical Society of Northern California Endorse “No” Campaign

Sacramento, CA – In conjunction with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Chinese American Physician Society and the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California have signed on in opposition to the so called “Fairness for Injured Patients Act.” The groups join dozens of community clinics, doctors, nurses and others in opposing this dangerous initiative.

AAPI Heritage Month is a time to reflect and honor the work and sacrifices of our communities,” said Lawrence Cheung, MD, Chinese American physician based in San Francisco. “Despite thousands of reported incidents of harsh bullying targeting our AAPI community, our families and even front line AAPI medical workers over the last year, the Chinese American physician community has remained dedicated to treating our patients and ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have the care they need. This measure would put our patients in danger and jeopardize access for too many. I can’t think of a more powerful moment to stand in opposition to this ill-conceived initiative.”

The measure, funded primarily by a wealthy out-of-state trial attorney, will appear on the November 2022 ballot. The initiative would effectively eliminate California’s medical lawsuit limits by creating a new and broadly defined category of malpractice lawsuits, which would result in financial windfalls for California’s trial attorneys, hurting California’s most vulnerable patients.

“Our organization is dedicated to connecting elderly and indigent Filipino-Americans to important medical care,” said Thad Padua, MD, President of the Philippine Medical Society of Northern California. “This initiative would create even more barriers for our community to get critical care which is why we urge voters to say No next November.”

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly voted No on Proposition 46, which would have made substantial changes in the state’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). This measure goes well beyond what Prop. 46 would have done and the cost to California taxpayers would be far greater, as noted by the independent Legislative Analyst Office (LAO).

“This measure would likely have a wide variety of fiscal effects on state and local governments,” the LAO said, adding that, “Annual government costs likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more information about Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs, please visit protectmicra.org.