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Proposition 46: A Life-Saver Or Dangerous Money Drain?

Benjamin Dunn |
October 5, 2014 | 11:05 p.m. PDT

Web Producer/Staff Photographer

In under a month's time, Californians will decide on whether to pass Proposition 46, which aims to limit medical malpractice incidents by upping negligence lawsuit payouts from $250,000 to $1 million and making drug and alcohol screening for licensed practitioners mandatory. While holding doctors more accountable is a generally attractive notion, some worry that the proposition would cost too much. 

According to a report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the measure could potentially increase government expenses from tens of millions of dollars to several hundred millions of dollars. Jason Kinney, communications director for No On 46, says these expenses will be passed onto residents and will cost the average four-person family in California an extra $1,000 a year. Insurance premiums would also exponentially rise, the L.A. Times said in an editorial.

However, Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, the main force behind the Yes On 46 campaign, says these costs would be offset, since 46 would decrease the number of malpractice cases in the first place. 

“If you can stop people from getting injured, there won’t be malpractice costs for the healthcare system or for the doctors who keep repeatedly injuring people," he said.

Backers of Proposition 46 are also seeking to mandate doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing their patients potentially addictive substances such as Vicodin and Oxytocin. The database, called the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), was to share patient information and lower the risk of addiction.

But because the system is old, outdated and unreliable, opponents say it is an unrealistic and punitive demand. It's “a mandate that punishes pharmacists and doctors or forces them to consult a database that doesn’t work until they do their job," said Kinney.

Mandating access to the underfunded and understaffed database will also put hundreds of thousands of medical records at risk, according to opponents. In a period when medical records are worth almost 20 times more than credit card information, doctors are afraid that their patients' information could fall in the wrong hands. Since the database was digitized in 2006, however, there have been no reported incidents of hacking or stolen information

Healthcare professionals are not against the idea of a statewide database, though. In 2013, they helped pass Senate Bill 809 which provides more funding for the CURES database by adding an annual $6 fee to licensed healthcare workers. By 2016, there will be enough funding for a more reliable system that doctors could easily access on demand, according to proponents.

Reach Web Producer/Staff Photographer Benjamin Dunn here.



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