Legislative Republicans Send Letter to Sen. Steinberg, Say Changing MICRA Cap Would Trigger More Junk Lawsuits, Hurt State's Economy, Threaten Access to Affordable Health Care

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Senate and Assembly Republicans today announced that they have sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg reaffirming their support for California's landmark law that sets caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, known as MICRA.  They vowed to oppose any legislation to undermine these caps, as they argued it would invite more junk lawsuits, hurt the economy and threaten access to affordable health care.

The text of the letter is below:

March 4, 2014
 
Hon. Darrell Steinberg 
President Pro Tempore 
California State Senate 
State Capitol, Room 205 
Sacramento, CA  95814
 
Dear Senator Steinberg:
 
We write to express our opposition to your efforts to alter California's long-established Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, which caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
 
Since it was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown during his first term as Governor in 1975, California's MICRA law has made a significant difference in holding down medical liability costs that were skyrocketing before its passage.
 
By limiting non-economic damage awards to a reasonable amount, and ensuring that more money goes to patients who were actually harmed, MICRA has preserved the availability of affordable health care options for all Californians.  At the same time, California's MICRA law was carefully crafted to fully compensate injured patients by placing no limits on punitive damages or the economic damages that can be recovered.
 
Because of MICRA, California's medical malpractice costs are much lower than other states.  For example, California OB-GYNs pay approximately $71,000 in annual liability costs, compared with nearly $185,000 in New York and nearly $191,000 in Florida.  It has been reported that many counties in New York lack access to specialists in part because of that state's high malpractice costs.
 
California already has a significant doctor shortage.  We should not make the problem worse by weakening MICRA, which is what will happen if your efforts becomes law.
 
We are deeply troubled that any effort to change MICRA, however well intentioned, will turn the clock back on the progress made in containing costs, while exposing doctors and health care providers to more junk lawsuits.  One study estimated that health care costs in California would rise by at least $9.9 billion each year - or more than $1,000 for every California family of four - if the MICRA caps were lifted from $250,000 to more than $1 million as some have proposed.
 
Like you, we are concerned about a potentially-bruising and certainly expensive initiative campaign on the issue.  But we trust the voters to make the right decision if a reckless measure is placed on the ballot.  However, any effort to alter the MICRA formula will be seen as the Legislature surrendering its resolve to uphold critical reforms that have lowered costs while still protecting patients.
 
For our part, Republicans will fight any legislative efforts like yours to undermine MICRA, as we believe those changes will hurt our economy and threaten access to affordable health care.
 
Sincerely,

 

/s/                                                                                 
Bob Huff 
Senate Republican Leader
 
Connie Conway 
Assembly Republican Leader
 
Senator Joel Anderson 
Senator Tom Berryhill 
Senator Anthony Cannella 
Senator Jean Fuller 
Senator Ted Gaines 
Senator Steve Knight 
Senator Jim Nielsen 
Senator Andy Vidak 
Senator Mimi Walters 
Senator Mark Wyland
 
Assemblymember Travis Allen 
Assemblymember Frank Bigelow 
Assemblymember Brian Dahle 
Assemblymember Beth Gaines 
Assemblymember Jeff Gorell 
Assemblymember Shannon Grove 
Assemblymember Curt Hagman 
Assemblymember Diane Harkey 
Assemblymember Brian Jones 
Assemblymember Eric Linder 
Assemblymember Dan Logue 
Assemblymember Allan Mansoor 
Assemblymember Brian Maienschein 
Assemblymember Melissa Melendez 
Assemblymember Mike Morrell 
Assemblymember Brian Nestande 
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen 
Assemblymember Jim Patterson 
Assemblymember Marie Waldron 
Assemblymember Donald P. Wagner 
Assemblymember Scott Wilk

Click here to view a PDF version of the letter.