Sacramento, CA -- Steve Poizner, former Insurance Commissioner of California, endorsed the Fairness for Injured Patients Act to update California’s cap on quality of life and survivor damages for patients harmed by medical negligence.
In an oped published in CalMatters on Wednesday, Poizner writes: “This is a common sense and modest adjustment to a law that is terribly outdated and keeps California behind the times, rather than being a leader in patient care and medical accountability. ...There’s still time for Sacramento politicians to step up and fix this mistake. But if not, it will be up to California voters next November to correct this long overdue injustice.”
“Under a 1975 California law known as MICRA – the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act – the victim of medical malpractice may collect no more than $250,000 for pain and suffering, regardless of how devastating the injuries might be. As the state that leads the nation in protection of consumers, how can this gross injustice be allowed to stand?” the opinion piece reads.
“Forty-seven years after it was enacted, the cap has never been adjusted for inflation. It is worth less than $50,000 today’s dollars. The cap prevents many patients from getting justice and deepens the racial inequalities in the health care system, disproportionately harming low-income patients, communities of color, women and children.”
The Fairness for Injured Patients Act, a ballot initiative brought by survivors of medical negligence across the state, is qualified for the November 2022 ballot. It will adjust for inflation California’s nearly 50-year-old cap on quality of life and survivor compensation in medical negligence cases, and give judges and jurors the ability to decide compensation in cases of catastrophic injury or death.
Drawing on knowledge from his four years at the head of the most powerful insurance regulatory agency in the nation, Poizner debunks claims that the initiative will raise the cost of physicians’ malpractice insurance.
He writes, “As a former California Insurance Commissioner, I know that the cost of doctors’ insurance isn’t an excuse. California’s Insurance Commissioner has more power than any other state to keep physicians’ malpractice insurance rates fair. Commissioners use that authority to require malpractice insurers to justify every rate increase and have lowered unreasonably high malpractice insurance rates by more than $100 million after direct public challenges.”
The piece also addresses the myth that California’s cap helps to attract more doctors to the state. He writes that “the Association of American Medical Colleges’ State Physician Workforce Data Book report shows there are 15.5% more physicians per capita in states without caps than in states with caps. According to the same report, California has fewer doctors per capita than 20 other states. Eleven of those 20 states have no cap on damages.”
Poizner writes: “This is an issue about more than just economics; it’s about justice.”
“Medical malpractice can cause physical and emotional damage, as well as serious financial hardships. Permanent disability, loss of quality of life and loss of future wages are but a few examples of the negative impacts on patients. While we know that no amount of money can ever compensate for the death or disability of a loved one, the fact that in California today the loss of a child due to preventable medical negligence is valued at no more than $250,000 is horrific."
“Instead of enacting new laws to protect patients, the medical insurance complex has spent tens of millions of dollars to keep the cap in place and the courtroom door closed, so injured patients never get justice.”
He cites examples of patients injured here in California: “A young mother and baby lose their lives after signs of a common pregnancy complication are ignored; a patient dies after a misplaced IV causes a month-long infection; post-operative pain goes untreated until it becomes a near-fatal infection; and a brain cancer survivor is denied treatment for mild pneumonia, leading to his death.”
Read and watch the stories of a coalition of patients and families harmed by medical negligence and backing the Fairness for Injured Patients Act at www.patientsforfairness.org.
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Paid for by Consumer Watchdog Campaign for the Fairness for Injured Patients Act Committee major funding from: Consumer Watchdog Campaign Nonprofit 501(c)(4).