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SAMEER V. AWSARE, MD, FACP President, Santa Clara County Medical Association

MICRA Challenge By Sameer V. Awsare, MD, FACP President, Santa Clara County Medical Association The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which was enacted in 1975, has protected California’s physicians and health care providers by limiting awards for pain and suffering to $250,000. This has helped control medical liability costs, reduce premiums for health care professionals, and maintain good access for patients to community clinics, health centers, and physicians. The trial attorneys, along with a coalition of interest groups, urged the California legislature to increase the $250,000 cap on awards for non-economic pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. Having failed to win legislative support to change MICRA, the trial attorneys have filed an anti-MICRA ballot initiative with the Attorney General’s office for the 2014 ballot. Physicians in our county must band together with our colleagues across the state to defend MICRA. MICRA ensures that injured patients receive fair compensation while preserving patient’s access to health care. Under MICRA, injured patients may receive unlimited compensation for any and all economic damages while limiting non-economic damages to $250,000. The $250,000 cap on non-economic damages is an effective way of limiting meritless lawsuits and keeping health care costs lower, but has been targeted by the trial lawyers because it restricts the amount of money they can collect in damage awards. Increasing MICRA’s cap on speculative non-economic damages will have a dramatic, costly, and negative impact on the cost of health care in California, including medical liability rates. William Hamm, a former nonpartisan state legislative analyst, has estimated that doubling the MICRA cap on non-economic damages to $500,000 would raise health care costs in California by $9.5 billion dollars annually. For a family of four, this translates into approximately $1,000 in added costs every year. MICRA also ensures that health care dollars are spent on health care services, rather than being diverted to litigation. In states outside California, that do not have legislation like MICRA, medical malpractice insurance costs have increased tremendously. This has forced physicians to abandon their practices, and rural areas have been especially hard hit. They have also lead to an increase in Medicaid expenditures. During the last decade, Texas has enacted laws that resemble California’s MICRA law and noted improvement in access to and the quality of health care in their state. The fight to save MICRA will be extremely expensive, and the California Medical Association (CMA) and its allies have raised several million dollars to protect MICRA. In August alone, groups such as the California Hospital Association, The Doctors Company, the California Dental Association, the Medical Insurance Exchange of California, NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company, Cooperative of American Physicians, Kaiser Permanente, and the Permanente Medical Groups have all put up multimillion dollar figures to derail these efforts. However, we need the help of individual physicians as well. I urge you to learn more about MICRA

and how you can help in the fight by visiting, and then make a contribution to CMA’s political action committee (CALPAC) to protect MICRA! If you know of a colleague who is not a member, urge them to join now. Together we are stronger!

In Order to Be Victorious in This Fight, We Need Your Help! DONATE: A fight of this magnitude will be extremely costly. CMA is urging all physicians to consider a donation to CMA’s political action committee (CALPAC), which for the last 38 years has served as the first line of defense for California’s historic physician protections. Call 800/225-7229. JOIN: If you are not already a member of SCCMA-MCMS/CMA, please consider joining today. By joining SCCMA-MCMS/CMA, you will help to ensure that the voice of California’s physicians is heard loud and clear in the capitol and beyond. Together, our unified voice can move mountains. Call 408/998-8850 (SCCMA) or 831/455-1008 (MCMS). Sameer V. Awsare, MD, FACP, is the 2013-2014 president of the Santa Clara County Medical Association. He is a board certified internist and is currently practicing with The Permanente Medical Group in Campbell. SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2013 | THE BULLETIN | 7

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