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Initiative to Raise Monetary Awards in Lawsuits Against Doctors Heads for Ballot

The measure would also require random drug and alcohol testing of physicians.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A wide-ranging initiative that includes raising the limit on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and requiring random drug and alcohol testing of doctors has qualified for the November ballot, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Thursday.

If approved by voters, what backers have dubbed the "Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act," would adjust for inflation the $250,000 limit for pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits that has been law since 1975.

If the $250,000 limit had been adjusted for inflation since 1975 it would now be $1,101,635.69, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The measure's provisions also include requiring hospitals to conduct random drug and alcohol testing of doctors who practice there; doctors to report other physicians who appear to be impaired by drugs and alcohol on duty; and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board.

It would also require health care practitioners to consult the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Initiative proponent Bob Pack created the database.

"California voters have taken the first step in making sure that more families like mine don't have to experience the pain of losing a child due to dangerous medicine," said Pack, a technology executive.

Pack's son and daughter were killed when they were struck and killed by a car driven by a drugged driver as they were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with their mother. The crash also killed Pack's unborn twins. The initiative is named for them.

The initiative would result in higher malpractice costs for state and local governments at least in the low tens of millions of dollars, potentially ranging to more than $100 million annually, according to an analysis prepared by the Legislative Analyst's Office and Department of Finance.

The analysis also found the potential state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services potentially range from relatively minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Passage of the measure would increase medical liability costs, make it harder to attract doctors to the state and give attorneys greater incentives to file meritless or questionable lawsuits, according to Kim Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, which lobbies the Legislature to reduce what it calls "unwarranted and excessive litigation that increases business and government expense."

Valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters -- 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 general election -- were required to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

A website in support of the initiative can be found at PackAct.org.

The measure is at least the fifth that will appear in the November ballot. The others are an initiative that would require the insurance commissioner to approve any increases in health insurance rates; a measure regarding the state's rainy day fund; a referendum seeking to overturn two gambling compacts; and an $11.1 billion water bond.

--City News Service


Becky May 18, 2014 at 02:00 PM
I can't believe the Packs put their name on this. This seems much broader change than they need to address their problem.
Giorgio C. May 18, 2014 at 02:38 PM
When I asked the complaint investigators at the CDPH Daly City office why they didn't perform follow-up surveys of previously cited hospitals, they responded that they didn't have the resources. Doesn't this survey system pay for itself? You cite a hospital $250,000.00 and then say you can't afford to conduct follow-up visits? Bill the hospital for the visit. I work for an agency inspected by the Feds. They charge us around $4,000.00 for the biennial survey process. I think hospitals and patients could afford to pay for this visit. It's a small price for quality assurance. The big price is the citation after something tragic occurs. Being proactive costs less in dollars and pain and suffering than being reactive.
Louise B. May 18, 2014 at 11:28 PM
Be prepared for an increase in healthcare provider costs. By the way, it has nothing to do with healthcare insurance.
John Humphrey May 19, 2014 at 11:27 PM
Healthcare costs will increase because malpractice insurance will go up. The cost of malpractice insurance is already a contributing factor to the doctor shortage in the US

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