Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the US, killing 200,000 to 400,000 people every year and injuring millions more. Black, Hispanic and Indigenous patients experience more preventable medical errors and suffer worse health outcomes because they are more likely to be uninsured, underinsured and receive lower quality healthcare.
Instead of enacting new laws to protect patients, hospitals, providers and their insurance companies spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress and state legislatures to stop us from holding them accountable. They impose caps on compensation for victims of medical negligence that close the courtroom door and ensure injured patients never get justice. We know that greedy insurance companies, not injured patients seeking justice, are to blame for driving up the cost of health care.
Consumer Watchdog fights to make health care safer and to restore the rights of patients to take negligent doctors and hospitals to court.
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Reports & Resources
How Insurance Reform Lowered Doctors’ Medical Malpractice Rates In California: And How Malpractice Caps Failed
In this groundbreaking report, Consumer Watchdog shows the success of insurance regulation and dispels the myth that California's malpractice cap is responsible for reducing insurance premiums, and therefore health care costs, in the state.
And the 2013 report update: RATE REGULATION: The Rx for Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates
GRAPHIC: Sacramento Bee Medical Malpractice Premiums
This Sacramento Bee infographic shows how malpractice insurance premiums spiked after California's malpractice cap law passed in 1975, and only fell after the passage of insurance reform Proposition 103 in 1988.
False Accounting: How Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies Inflate Losses to Justify Sudden Surges in Rates and Tort Reform
A Consumer Watchdog study reviewed medical malpractice insurance companies' books and found the insurers consistently inflated the amount they estimated they would pay out in claims. The companies used the overstated figures to justify enormous increases in doctors' premiums and pressure legislators to enact restrictions on patients’ legal rights. Read the press release about the report.
Former Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones explains that rate regulation, not California’s medical malpractice caps, has prevented excessive medical malpractice insurance rates.
Consumer Watchdog has provided testimony before the U.S. Congress, as well as state lawmakers in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon, regarding the success of insurance reform in California and the failure of malpractice caps to lower doctors’ insurance premiums.
Assessing the Need to Enact Medical Liability Reform
February 27, 2003 -- Consumer Watchdog Founder Harvey Rosenfield presents testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health on the success of California Insurance reform, Proposition 103, in restraining medical malpractice insurance premiums and the failure of the state's severe malpractice liability caps to reduce rates.
HR 4600 Will Harm Patients & Enrich Only Insurers
July 17, 2002 -- Testimony of Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court before U.S. Congress.
Regulating Damages vs. Regulating Insurance Rates: The California Experience
April 22, 2004 -- Testimony of Consumer Watchdog Executive Director before the Oklahoma state legislature.
Proposition 46: The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act
Troy, 10, and 7-year-old Alana Pack, were killed on a street near their Bay Area home a decade ago by a doctor-shopping prescription drug abuser stoned on Vicodin and vodka. Since then, their Dad, Bob Pack, has been battling to enact changes in state law and medical practices to ensure such a tragedy will never happen again.
Consumer Watchdog backed Bob Pack’s 2014 ballot measure, Proposition 46, that would have saved lives by: Adjusting the state's $250,000 malpractice compensation cap for four decades of inflation; Requiring doctors to use the state's prescription drug monitoring program to stem opioid abuse; and, Mandating random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse.
In 2014, Proposition 46 was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California. The malpractice insurance industry, physician lobby and Kaiser industry spent $58 million dollars on a negative ad campaign to defeat it. However, over the course of the campaign, every major newspaper in California endorsed the need to adjust the cap. In 2016, the legislature passed the second element of Prop 46, requiring doctors to check the state prescription drug database before prescribing opioids. That law took effect in October of 2018.
Sacramento, CA – Today’s CBS This Morning special investigation makes a damning case for reform of physician oversight and legal accountability in California. The segment documents how the influence of the doctors’ lobby on lawmakers and on the Medical Board of California allows bad doctors to continue practicing and causing patient harm. As whistleblower member of the Medical Board, TJ Watkins, told CBS: “No question that it costs patient lives.”
Los Angeles, CA – The must-see documentary “Never Events,” that follows the journey of multiple families who fought for change after suffering lifelong harm or loss due to medical negligence, debuts this week on Amazon, Apple TV and other streaming services. The documentary exposes the trauma caused by medical negligence, the third leading cause of death in America, and California’s cap on compensation for patients who are harmed that prevents them from getting justice or accountability for their loss.
WOMEN OF COLOR are disproportionately harmed by California’s outdated limits on compensation for patients injured by medical negligence. Systemic inequities in our health care system mean women of color receive lower quality health care and contend with worse health outcomes. Then the cap deprives them of justice when they seek answers and accountability.
NEWS UPDATE: June 3, 2021
Sacramento, CA – California lawmakers have moved legislation to the Senate Floor to make California the first state in the nation whose Medical Board has a majority of public, not doctor, members. The bill follows months of calls for increased public representation from families harmed by medical negligence who have been denied answers and accountability by both the Medical Board and the state’s 46-year-old cap on compensation for injured patients.