California Ballot Proposition Would Increase Health Costs by $9.9 Billion

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Next week, California voters will have to make up their minds on Proposition 46, a ballot measure that could increase medical care costs and which threatens medical record privacy, writes Zachary David Skaggs for Real Clear Policy.

In the 1970s, California doctors were fed up with having to pay skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums. At the time, medical malpractice lawsuits in the state were running rampant, and plaintiffs were winning pain and suffering awards worth tens of millions of dollars. In response, lawmakers passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), capping pain and suffering awards at $250,000.

Proposition 46 aims to increase that cap to $1.1 million by adjusting it for inflation. Skaggs points out that all California voters have a stake in the outcome, as the costs will be borne by more than just doctors; doctors will pass on higher costs to patients, and employers will see higher costs for their health plans. According to the California Medical Association, health care costs will increase by a whopping $9.9 billion annually if the proposition passes. That’s a more than $1,000 increase for a family of four.

The cap on pain and suffering awards is just one aspect of the three-part ballot measure. The proposition would also require doctors to undergo drug screenings and require all doctors and pharmacists to access a database, run by the state, before prescribing certain drugs to new patients. Skaggs writes that no additional money is available for cybersecurity for the new website, meaning that patients’ medical information could be vulnerable to hackers.

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