Ballot Initiatives

California Ballot Initiative Targets Doctors for Drug War Expansion (Also: Another Payday for Lawyers)

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"Yeah, this doc is tripping balls right now. Keeps going on about a sonic screwdriver."
Doctor Who

Another California election, another host of ballot initiatives with hidden (and not-so-hidden) agendas. Consumer Watchdog is sponsoring a couple of healthcare-related ballot initiatives this November. One of them, Proposition 46, increases the cap on the medical malpractice claims for pain and suffering from $250,000 to a little bit more than $1 million. Note that this is just a cap on the pain-and-suffering component of a claim, not the other parts of a claim like lost wages, et cetera.

While this is obviously an effort to increase malpractice payouts, the initiative has been packaged with some rather bizarre drug war-influenced regulations, apparently as a way to get popular support. The ballot initiative would require drug and alcohol testing of doctors, require all health care officials to narc on any doctor he or she thinks might be under the influence, and also forces health care workers to consult a prescription drug database before prescribing certain drugs (like painkillers).

All these other regulations may end up being what helps kill the initiative. It was the addition of the drug testing that prompted the San Jose Mercury News to recommend against the initiative's passage, even though it supports the other stuff. Dozens of medical groups and unions oppose the bill, no doubt because of the potential financial impacts on the industry and their bottom lines. But the drug war component has also drawn opposition from several civil liberties groups. Everybody from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to the California chapter of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has declared opposition to the initiative. Opponents have raised more than $56 million to campaign against it, compared to $7.5 million from supporters. Californians can expect lots and lots of commercials on this one.

Consumer Watchdog is also the sponsor of Proposition 45, which would require insurance companies to seek permission from the California Insurance Commissioner and have public hearings for any rate changes. Steven Maviglio, a consultant for Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs (which opposes Prop. 45) writing at The California Majority Report, notes that Consumer Watchdog earns millions of dollars billing the state of California for intervening in rate cases that come up before the state's Department of Insurance, thanks to a no-bid contract. Just to make it clear, Consumer Watchdog directly earns revenue from the state as a result of its activism in controlling state policy, something to keep in mind when it complains about the evils of the insurance industry.

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    1. There’s a search engine I use to pull up creative commons photos to go with blog posts. I typed in “doctor” and all I got were dozens and dozens of Doctor Who-related photos. It was a sign.

  1. Good to know lots of people are fighting this crap.

  2. Just to make it clear, Consumer Watchdog directly earns revenue from the state as a result of its activism in controlling state policy

    “What is this ‘conflict of interest’ of which you speak?”

    /Consumer Watchdog

    1. “No, we don’t feel conflicted at all about our interest in this.”

    2. Any time you hear the term “consumer advocate”, think “government advocate”.

  3. Jesus. How long until California is populated by nothing but lawyers and layabouts?

    1. Well, they still have a vibrant weed growing industry. Once they fully legalize it, they will probably find a way to ruin that too.

    2. I give them until 1992.

      1. Come on, that’s way to harsh. I’m sure they’ll make it until at least 2002.

    3. You forgot the hackers. Oh wait.

    4. Sir! You forget that those lawyers and layabouts require the services of domestics (that live at least 40 miles away, lest the lower classes taint the inclusive enclaves of tolerance).

  4. “California: Continuing to work hard to drive ALL productive citizens to other states!”

    1. Hey, it worked on me. I’m even a tax inverter as my new state income tax is 3%!

    2. Hey, it worked on me. I’m even a tax inverter as my new state income tax is 3%!

  5. Maybe I’m a bad libertarian, but I’ve always found tort damage caps to be distasteful. A plaintiff who is victorious should be compensated fairly, as judged by the jury, not compensated until the point of x. This is especially the case with MICRA, where the $250,000 cap was set in the early 70’s, and doesn’t adjust for inflation. Are you telling me if the doctor fucks up and saws off your leg rather than fix your knee (and yes, that shit happens), you’re only entitled to $250,000 in pain and suffering? That’s bullshit.

    1. I don’t think that there is anything particularly libertarian about damage caps. Maybe punitive damage caps.

    2. I’m not so sure there’s a lockstep libertarian position on this one. It’s a situation where so much insurance and industry regulation makes it impossible to make any decisions that won’t result in perverse incentives and distorted outcomes.

    3. A plaintiff who is victorious should be compensated fairly, as judged by the jury, not compensated until the point of x.

      Caps are only passed in response to obvious failures of the jury system to compensate plaintiffs “fairly”.

      In too many jurisdictions, the judges are owned by the plaintiff’s bar, and the juries view any tort trial as an opportunity to give a winning lottery ticket to the plaintiff.

      When the court system is broken, its the legislature’s responsibility to fix it.

      Remember, defendants have been stripped, over time, of many of their traditional defenses that acted to hold plaintiff’s responsible for their own decisions. Its no longer really a system based on personal responsibility.

      Also, the concept of “restitution” gets really slippery when you move beyond hard damages to soft damages like “pain and suffering”.

      Damage caps would be much harder to defend in a court system that was serious about personal responsibility, and skeptical about paying damages that are unverifiable. That’s not the system we have.

    4. Are you telling me if the doctor fucks up and saws off your leg rather than fix your knee (and yes, that shit happens), you’re only entitled to $250,000 in pain and suffering? That’s bullshit.

      Is it bullshit, though? Even if you only get $250,000 in pain and suffering, you’ll still get a shitload in damages, right?

      1. Yeah, your compensatories would be awfully high.

      2. You can get loss of income. But if you’re an office worker and you lose your leg, you can still come in to work no problem. You just have a prosthetic joint. So your loss of income is limited to the time off for recuperation and physical therapy, which may or may not be a lot.

        But let’s put it this way – would you let someone amputate your leg if you got any resultant loss of income and a $250,000 bonus? I would say “no,” and I think most people would, and I would say that’s a sign that it’s insufficient compensation.

    5. Libertarians should be against capping liability. Let the courts decide.

      It’s conservatives who are for “tort control”, because they are sucking up to big business, and because most of the trial lawyers are Democrats.

  6. The ballot initiative would require drug and alcohol testing of doctors, require all health care officials to narc on any doctor he or she thinks might be under the influence, and also forces health care workers to consult a prescription drug database before prescribing certain drugs (like painkillers).

    Anything that reduces the supply of doctors is good for healthcare affordability, right?

  7. Pass it, CA! PASS IT!

    We can use some more docs here in Arizona.

    1. You’re in AZ? If so, where?

        1. So, that’s like 3 of us in AZ then.

          I’m in Yuma and there’s one up in Phoenix, but she’s not been on in a while.

          1. I’m in Yuma

            I hope you’re being paid well.

            1. + 3:10

  8. Alcohol testing for doctors? Do they not know any doctors? Talk about long waits at the office…

    1. How would it work? Would doctors have to blow into a Breathalyzer before seeing every patient? Like those court-ordered car ignition locks?

  9. Who cares? I’m voting to split California into six parts.

  10. So, basically, someone at Consumer Watchdog finally got around to watching ‘House,’ thought it was a reality show, and panicked?

  11. my co-worker’s sister-in-law makes $62 every hour on the computer . She has been laid off for ten months but last month her paycheck was $18227 just working on the computer for a few hours. see this ….

    =============== http://www.netjob70.com

  12. Doctors are getting proper fucked recently. My doctor doesn’t even have insurance and before Obamacare etc. he would basically trade with other doctors for care. That’s now illegal according to him and very strictly regulated so he ends up paying for things out of the pocket. WA has passed some extremely draconian legislation regarding opioids recently which make a lot of doctors extremely reluctant to provide proper pain management and many patients in the state who have suffered chronic pain problems for a decade or more are getting thrown out on the street. I’m lucky to have an awesome doctor, and when I was recovering from surgery he wasn’t cowed by the DEA and state like many if not most are. When somebody files a complaint, the discipline procedures they have to go through are even worse than the internal affairs crap we have to deal with in law-enforcement, and they don’t have in most cases the kind of union protection to fight against a guilty until proven innocent investigation that we do. Some of the regulatory crap that’s come down on them recently is also pretty absurd. Some will not even treat an opposite sex patient in a closed-door room without having a nurse or PA there as a witness because they are so afraid of the process if a complaint is made.

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