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Cash gathers over Proposition 46

A male patient uses a walker frame. Photo: Bikeriderlondon, via Shutterstock

It’s on the ballot and off the public’s radar, but months before Election Day the campaign cash already is piling up — $44 million and counting — for what is certain to be a massive TV blitz in the fall between doctors, lawyers and insurers over Proposition 46.

Foes are raising campaign cash 10-to-1 over proponents.

The measure would raise the $250,000 ceiling on pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, a limit that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown during his first term as governor nearly 40 years ago.  But critics of that law, led by some consumer groups and attorneys, have long complained that the cap in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, was inadequate and hurt the ability of malpractice victims to get top-flight attorneys to fight damages.

Proposition 46 would lift the MICRA ceiling and peg the limit to inflation. If the proposition is approved in November, the new cap would be just over $1.1 million. The measure also requires drug and alcohol testing for physicians, that supporters say is similar to the testing currently required for law enforcement officers and pilots.

The foes of Proposition 46 include the California Medical Association and an array groups representing hospitals, clinics, dentists, insurers and organized labor, among others. They have raised more than $40 million, according to financial disclosure records at the secretary of state’s office. They raised some $32 million through March 31, the end of the current reporting period, plus another $8 million from April 1 through this week.  They have spent less than $1 million.

About $5 million came in within the last few days — $2.5 million from the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems on July 25 and $2.5 million from the Medical Insurance Exchange of California on July 24.

Fully half the total amount of money raised so far by opponents of Proposition 46 has come from just a handful of companies, with $5 million each from the California Medical Association, the Doctors Group, the NorCal Mutual Insurance Company and the Cooperative of American Physicians, according to the secretary of state.

Supporters have raised about $4 million, and their spending included signature-gathering costs to qualify the measure for the ballot. The campaign in favor of Proposition 46 is headed by the Consumer Attorneys of California and Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that authored Proposition 103 of 1988, the insurance industry reform initiative.

A deadline for campaigns to submit the latest spending and contribution reports is Thursday.

 


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