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Medical Malpractice: Majority Of Republicans Favor Increasing Micra Limits

California enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, known as MICRA, in 1975 to combat concerns over the availability and rising price of medical malpractice insurance. This Act established a limitation, or cap, of $250,000 on the amount a person could recover for any pain, suffering, distress, anguish, and loss of quality of life in a medical malpractice case.

The theory was that MICRA would decrease the number of medical malpractice claims, as well as the costs of resolving those claims. It was further speculated that these savings, which mostly benefitted large corporations like insurance companies and hospitals, would “trickle down” to consumers, resulting in lower or stabilized insurance coverage premiums and increased availability of medical services.

MICRA caps operate on half of all plaintiff verdicts in California to reduce the award a jury determines necessary to compensate those plaintiffs for their losses. The end result was a reduction in costs – negligent health care professionals benefitted from a 30% reduction in liability. WHAT IS LACKING IS ANY EVIDENCE SHOWING THAT PATIENTS BENEFITTED FROM A SIMILAR REDUCTION IN MEDICAL MALPRACTICE.  Even more disturbing, research has proven that the jury awards most likely to be capped under MICRA are those cases which resulted in death, in severe non-fatal injuries, and injuries to children younger than 1 year.

With the types of inequities that arise from these limits on general damages, its no wonder that a recent Public Policy Polling study found that a majority of Republicans in “red” or “purple” states are against these types of limits, and in favor of holding practitioners and nursing homes accountable for their negligence and abuse of a loved one.

The reality is that limits like MICRA do not provide a benefit to patients, but instead operate to harm them in favor of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers, as well as their insurance companies.  Furthermore, the MICRA limit in California has remain unchanged for over 40 years.  A simple cost of living adjustment to the 1975 limit of $250,000 would result in a new limit of $1.4 million dollars.  An increase in the limit does nothing to change the standard of proof required in the lawsuits themselves, and is not something that effects the jury’s decision-making process.  Hopefully, voters in California and across the nation will be more careful when considering any future ballot measures relating to this issue.

Written by Sara Morgan, view her profile here.

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