You are browsing the archive for MICRA.

Iron Kay — Insurance Companies Pick Fight With Wrong Family

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Iron KayDan Shea’s Aunt Kay was 83, vibrant and healthy in 2011, when she suffered terrible injuries in a head-on accident. Kay spent five months in the hospital rehabilitating and being repaired with so many metal parts that the family dubbed her “Iron Kay.”

Then the real fight began—one that changed Dan, a San Diego civic booster and Republican notable, into an implacable foe of insurance company tactics. He’s told Kay’s story in a short, even charming, video, “The Iron Lady,” that calmly exposes corporations trying to outwait Kay’s lifespan to preserve their profits.

Farmers and two affiliates of Nationwide have been resisting a settlement for more than two years and counting. It’s costing the corporations a bundle, but if Kay dies before their legal options run out, they’ll save a bundle. It’s a perfectly legal tactic, which Dan is determined to change. The fight is Kay’s reason for living through her pain.

Kay will never be the same: She can’t drive and can barely walk. She’s living with family and dependent on them. But she’s fully determined to get as far back to normal as possible.

Kay expected to at least recover financial independence, even after $800,000 in hospital bills. Both Kay and family of the 17-year-old boy in the truck were very well-insured by major companies. The boy was at fault, but there was no rancor between the families.

Then they encountered the insurance lawyers. It ultimately dawned on them that the insurance companies would benefit by delaying until Kay died, to make most of their liability disappear.

Kay originally did not want to sue, so Dan asked for mediation. Farmers Insurance, the boy’s insurer, agreed but stalled for months. Then the insurers offered a ridiculously low settlement–barely over half of the medical bills, much less her ongoing medical costs. Then they stalled some more and tried intimidating Kay with a long deposition about her life since adolescence.

When the case got to court in October of last year, within a few days a jury spurned the insurers’ argument that they really owed little, and awarded Kay $2.1 million dollars.

Kay hasn’t gotten a penny. The insurance companies stalled again, and on January 7 they demanded a new trial. When it’s denied, they can file for an appeal. That could string out for a year or two.

Dan Shea found that having plenty of insurance, no matter how much it costs in premiums, doesn’t mean the company will protect you when you need it. And that everything the insurers have done is within the law.

Dan and his family have the determination and resources to keep fighting, and Dan is calling on state legislators to fix these interminable delays.

The fix shouldn’t stop at auto and property insurance. There are also horrible insurance company incentives embedded in state medical malpractice law. For instance, if an infant is severely disabled by medical negligence, insurers for the doctor and hospital could have to pay millions for a lifetime of expert care.

If the baby somehow dies, its economic value dies, too. The law in California restricts dead-child lawsuits to such a low payout that grieving parents usually can’t even get a lawyer to take their case. So what incentive does an at-fault hospital or doctor have to keep that baby alive?

The same is true if the wronged patient suffers a terminal illness—why pay now if you can stall until the problem literally goes away?

We need more people with Dan’s determination to change this.

Posted by Judy Dugan, Research Director Emeritus for Consumer Watchdog.

Dennis Quaid Calls On Californians To Support Pack Patient Safety Act

5:07 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Dennis Quaid“We were lucky to have a happy ending,” actor Dennis Quaid told a crowd at Consumer Watchdog’s Rage for Justice Awards in 2009. He was talking about the near-fatal overdose that his twins experienced at birth. They were given one thousand times the amount of blood thinner they were supposed to and nearly bled to death. “Their survival was the beginning of my activism.”

Dennis received the Phillip Burton Public Service Award for the spotlight he has put on medical errors and his campaign to introduce bar coding for prescription drugs and electronic medical records into the medical system. Cedars Sinai introduced a $100 million bar coding system in response to the Quaid family.

“People started telling us their story,” Dennis said of people who approached him with their own tales of medical negligence.

Now Dennis has taken a stand for California families victimized by medical negligence. He is asking California voters to sign the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, a California ballot measure to toughen the state’s patient safety laws.

“Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7, died because the health care industry has not done a good enough job keeping track of prescription medication,” Quaid said. “Their father, Bob, wrote this ballot measure to change things so other families won’t have to live through the tragedy his has.”

Dennis urged voters to watch a short, 2-minute video about Bob Pack’s courageous fight and add their signature for the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act.

More than 500,000 signatures have been gathered for the Pack Act.  More than 800,000 signatures must be turned in by March 24th for the ballot measure to be before voters in November.

“This patient safety reform can save lives,” Quaid said. “My family went through a frightening few weeks when our newborn twins received a near-fatal overdose and almost lost their lives. Since then, I have learned that patient safety is a huge problem and that the medical industry needs to learn some lessons from the aviation industry, which has a zero tolerance policy for errors.”

Patient and Consumer Initiatives Will Save Lives and Money

5:13 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee on Sunday, January 12, 2014


Jamie CourtNo political consultant sees more angles than Richie Ross, but his tangent opposing two pro-consumer ballot initiatives, which could turn 2014 into the Year of the Patient, is unsound geometry (“Voters can’t avoid health care politics,” Jan. 2). The ballot measures will save lives and money by closing fatal loopholes in Obamacare and California’s patient-safety laws.

The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to buy insurance but does not limit its cost. The “Justify Rates” ballot initiative before voters in November requires California health insurers to justify rate hikes and get approval before they take effect, as now happens in 35 other states.

The millions of individual policyholders and tens of thousands of businesses whose rates could not go up without state approval under the measure are those who have been hardest hit by premium increases over the past decade.

The ballot measure applies California’s tough property casualty insurance regulation, enacted by voters in 1988 as Proposition 103, to health insurance. A recent study by the Consumer Federation of America found the law has saved California drivers $102 billion. Drivers today pay less in real money than they did in 1988, the only state to see any decline.

The same tough rate regulation already applies to medical-malpractice insurance for physicians and hospitals, including that paid for by private clinics.

Consumer Watchdog has used the law’s protections to lower medical-malpractice insurance premiums by $77 million over the past decade. Ironically, doctors enjoy the protection that millions of Californians who pay for health insurance don’t yet have.

That’s why arguments that the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, now circulating, will raise malpractice rates are phony.

This ballot measure will save lives by curbing substance abuse by doctors, stemming the tide of overprescribing, and updating a 38-year-old cap on victims’ recovery that prevents injured patients from getting justice.

The California Medical Board estimates that 18 percent of doctors have a drug or alcohol problem during their careers. Mandatory drug testing, as now applies to most other public safety professions, will prevent dangerous doctors from practicing. Updating our medical-malpractice laws will allow victims of drugged, drunk and dangerous doctors to get justice.

One quarter of all medical discipline in the state involves abuse of drugs or alcohol. The Pack Patient Safety Act will protect the victims of this abuse and their families from the third leading cause of death in America: medical malpractice.


Jamie Court, proponent of the initiative requiring public justification of health insurance rates, is president of Consumer Watchdog. Carmen Balber is the nonprofit group’s executive director.

To the Ballot for Alana and Troy

12:57 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Pack MemorialLast Sunday, at the 10th memorial of my children’s death, we started a march to the ballot for patient safety. I hope you will join us. My seven year old, Alana, and ten year old, Troy, died because an addict got thousands of pills she never should have been prescribed since she had no physical symptoms.

She fell asleep at the wheel, swerved off the road and killed Alana and Troy. Yesterday we gathered the first signatures at Troy and Alana’s elementary school for the Troy and Alana Patient Safety Act — which seeks to stop substance abuse among patients and physicians, as well as creating legal deterrence for reckless prescribing and dangerous medicine.

As I wrote in an oped in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, we are going directly to the voters because the state’s medical association has opposed modest reform of patient safety laws at every turn in the legislature.

No family should have to live through what mine has because doctors didn’t know or care that they were prescribing thousands of pills to a drug addict.

In the coming weeks, you will be seeing signature gatherers at your local markets asking for your signature for the Pack Patient Safety Act. Please take a moment to sign and help us bring these critical issues of patient safety to the voters of California. We need 504,000 signatures from voters to make the November 2014 election, please help us help other families avoid the needless pain mine has had to endure. If you would like to learn more about the Pack Act and get involved in the signature gathering effort, please visit http://www.packact.org.


Posted by Bob Pack – Creator of the California CURES database and proponent of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Act.

Shouldn’t Doctors Have To Pee In The Cup Too?

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Pee in a Cup The Musical: Part IPilots, college athletes, bus drivers and Disneyland cast members all are subjected to mandatory drug testing, but not the doctor performing open heart surgery, or a vasectomy. Not yet.

Substance abuse among doctor runs twice as high among doctors as the general population — 18% of physicians according to the California Medical Board. It’s no wonder, they can deal their own drugs.

It’s time for the change medical experts have been calling for a while. To make the case, this short, funny musical video “Pee In The Cup Part I” will be circulating around Disneyland on a mobile billboard this weekend, where the California Medical Association is convening.

The medical association’s confab in the magic kingdom is a perfect metaphor for the fantasyland the state’s medical establishment has been living in when it come to threats to patient today.

Drug overdose deaths, for example, are the leading cause of accidental death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nonetheless the golden state’s medical lobby worked hard in the legislature this year with the drug companies to keep the narcotics flowing without accountability.

Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a simple bill sending coroners’ reports about prescription drug overdose deaths to the state medical board because the doctors undermined it. Legislation mandating that doctors check the electronic prescription drug database, known as CURES, about a patients’ history before prescribing narcotics didn’t make it out of the California Senate because the medical association stopped it. A much-anticipated medical board overhaul, moving investigation of dangerous prescribers to the attorney general, never materialized because of the medical lobby’s opposition.

The only prognosis is that while today’s doctors are dealing with modern problems the medical association is still stuck in Walt Disney’s 1950s mentality that physicians should never be told what to do or have anyone looking over their shoulder, even if it’s a coroner.

Consider substance abuse among doctors. Nearly two in ten doctors abuse drugs and alcohol.

Yet the medical association has long sought to coddle physicians who abuse alcohol and drugs with a now discredited “diversion” program that withheld discipline and accountability for doctors if they went to rehab. After decades of abuse, and revolving doors, the California legislature finally pulled the plug.

Still, drunk and high doctors face little real discipline thanks to the slap-on-the-wrist physician discipline system the medical association has lobbied hard to maintain. Recently, a meth-using doctor convicted of drug dealing got his license back after one year. A schoolteacher, police officer or lawyer would lose their credential, badge or license.

As a dramatic Los Angeles Times investigation recently showed, prescription drug overdoses are becoming all too common, particularly among teenagers and young adults, as a cadre of “pain management” doctors gets rich over the corpses. What’s shocking is how the medical association fights in the face of such a scandal to protect the small minority of dangerous and dirty doctors that cause the vast majority of harm. Stunned families who lost loved ones need only look to Disneyland for some answers.

Drug makers ply top physicians with lavish gifts, exotic seminars and fancy lunches, buying not only prescriptions of their products but political clout. Is that why the white coats were the drug industry’s cover in the capitol to keep the drugs flowing without requiring physicians to check whether they are prescribing to addicts?

Kaiser Permanente, which reportedly pays a huge check to the California Medical Association each year for the dues of its thousands of doctors, wields great power over the association too, including employing its current president. Is that why CMA’s doctors are the main opponents of reforms Kaiser and health insurers don’t like, such as a 2014 ballot measure to regulate health insurance rates through the same successful regulation that now applies to auto insurance and home insurance rates? (A ballot measure I authored and my consumer group qualified for the ballot.)

One father, who lost two young children to an addict’s driving and reckless prescribing, has had enough. Bob Pack created the CURES electronic database only to have to fight the medical association for its funding and use. He is now circulating a ballot measureto require mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors, force doctors to check the CURES database before prescribing narcotics, and to index for inflation a 38 year old cap on malpractice victims’ recovery.

Nothing is likely to shake the House at Disney so much as having to pee in a cup. After this year’s legislative debacle, it’s high time someone like Pack bring the medical association back to earth.


Jamie Court is the president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Consumer Watchdog and a backer of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. Originally posted on the Huffington Post on October 10, 2013

Brown Out

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Governor Jerry BrownGovernor Jerry Brown waited until late Friday to veto legislation requiring coroners to report to the medical board whenever narcotics cause deaths. The medical establishment has opposed the bill, which is aimed at weeding out the small number of dangerous and drug dealing doctors who are responsible for the vast majority of prescription drug overdose deaths.

Brown cited state costs as his reason, but it just doesn’t add up. The bill would have cost no more than hundreds of thousands of dollars. The power of the medical establishment is the real motive here, and their distaste for any accountability or transparency. The arrogance of medical-pharmaceutical complex is astounding, but what’s really disturbing is that they have Jerry Brown’s ear and pen.

The Los Angeles Times did a groundbreaking investigation of prescription overdose deaths and dirty doctors based on obtaining coroner reports like the ones that SB 62 would have required to be reported to the medical board. The fact that such a simple measure cannot get past the governor’s desk shows why we need to go to the ballot with the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which requires mandatory drug testing of physicians and other patient safety measures.

Drug testing physicians is not only critical to protecting the public from substance abusing doctors, but it is also remedies another epidemic — the belief by the doctors lobby that they are above it all. Make them pee in a cup and some of the arrogance we have been witnessing in response to common sense measures like SB 62 will be reduced too.

After today, it might be wise to make Governor Brown pee in a cup too. The loss of judgement and clarity in the deliberation of SB 62 makes one wonder.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter. Read the rest of this entry →

Is Your Doctor Opposed To Peeing In A Cup? Check The List

6:03 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Does Your Doctor Oppose Patient Safety ReformA drunk Orange County plastic surgeon reportedly disfigured at least a half dozen patients before losing his license. A Rocklin anesthesiologist was arrested for taking anesthesia through an extra IV line while administering it to a patient. A meth-using doctor who was convicted of drug dealing will get his doctor’s license back after a year.

Does your doctor oppose mandatory drug testing for physicians? Check the list.

Substance abuse among California physicians is higher than the general population, yet unlike bus drivers and pilots, physicians don’t have to take drug tests. A proposed patient safety ballot measure requires mandatory drug testing of physicians, but a group of doctors is raising big bucks to stop these and other common sense patient safety measures.

Consumer Watchdog has published the list of doctors across the state who have given money to the opponents of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act. We think patients should know if their doctors are standing in the way of their safety and will be sharing the list with millions of Californians.

Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7, were hit and killed by a drug abusing driver prescribed thousands of pills by negligent physicians. Their dad, Bob Pack, is the author of the ballot measure to create mandatory drug testing among physicians, require doctors to use an electronic prescription drug database and modernize patient safety laws.

Check the list and ask your doctor if he or she opposes modest patient safety reforms.

It’s time for the medical establishment to explain why it is resisting common sense solutions to weed out the small number of dangerous and dirty doctors that commit the vast majority of medical malpractice.

Read the rest of this entry →

I Support Planned Parenthood, Why Isn’t Planned Parenthood Supporting Women?

3:09 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Planned ParenthoodFifteen women and mothers whose lives have been devastated by medical negligence wrote to the CEOs of Planned Parenthood today asking them to reverse a position that is devastating to women’s health and access to justice in California. The letter asked the CEOs to reverse their position on a proposed ballot measure to change a law that has discriminated against women for the last 38 years.

Read the letter here.

“We are women whose lives have been shattered by medical negligence,” they wrote. “We take issue with Planned Parenthood’s leading role in opposition to ‘The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act,’ a pending California ballot measure that would simply update for inflation the state’s 38 year old cap on compensation in medical malpractice cases. The outdated cap is unfair to many who have suffered medical harm, regardless of gender. But it has a disproportionate impact on women.”

“Planned Parenthood’s opposition to the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act is against the interests of women in this state – your core constituency. The unfair, antiquated and sexist cap perpetuates an injustice against women that must be remedied. As a group that has been so deeply impacted by medical negligence and this outdated law, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in hopes you will reconsider your position on the ballot measure and support a reasonable index of the cap for inflation to bring California’s patient safety laws and women’s access to justice into the 21st century.”

Read more about the medical negligence suffered by the 15 women and their families here.

The letter explained how the limits on patients’ legal rights in medical negligence cases particularly harms women.

“In much the same way that the glass ceiling continues to undercut the income of working women, the malpractice cap on noneconomic damages means compensation for those harmed by medical negligence is largely determined by the income of the person who was injured. The calculus is simple and sexist.”

“A stay-at-home parent with no income or a parent who works only part-time to be able to spend more time with the children will be treated very differently under the cap than someone who is working full-time at a high-paying job.”

“A woman whose child was killed by medical negligence, or who lost her ability to have children due to medical negligence, or who underwent an unnecessary mastectomy due to medical negligence, is not likely to lose income. But she has clearly suffered a grievous injury. Her compensation for her loss is limited to an amount below what anyone would consider fair in 2013.”

Planned Parenthood is usually a champion for women’s rights, so their backwards position on this issue is particularly stunning. Luckily, there’s still time before the initiative reaches the ballot for the leaders of Planned Parenthood to listen to the women of California and recant.

Read the rest of this entry →

Historic Step for Patient Safety & Victims’ Rights

5:30 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Bob PackWe just wanted to let you know that we have filed a ballot measure that has been 37 years in the making. If we collect about 750,000 valid signatures, voters will have a chance to adjust for inflation a three and a half decade-old cap on the value of a child’s life if he or she is killed by medical negligence — a $250,000 limit that has never been changed.

Bob Pack, who lost his seven year-old daughter and ten year-old son on a roadside nine years ago, is the author of the ballot measure to address the drug overdose and physician accountability issues at the heart of his family’s tragedy, which you can read about below.

California voters have helped us qualify one initiative for next year’s ballot already — the Health Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act. Now we wanted to let you know that there will soon be opportunities for you to work with us on a new health care reform measure that deals with patient safety issues. 2014 is shaping up to be “The Year of the Patient.” If you want to help out, please email us at yearofthepatient@consumerwatchdog.org and let us know what you are willing to do.

The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act includes the following changes to California law:

  • Mandatory random drug and alcohol testing for physicians and mandatory physician drug and alcohol testing after reports of adverse events;
  • Mandatory use by physicians of the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California, which Pack developed for the state of California in the wake of his family’s tragedy;
  • Adjusting for inflation the 37-year-old $250,000 cap on recovery for medical negligence victims, which has not changed since 1975, and as the author of the original law, Barry Keene, recently came forward to support;
  • Requiring doctors who witness substance abuse by physicians or medical negligence to report it, and protecting those physicians from lawsuits by other doctors when they do.

Why is Bob Pack, our recent Rage for Justice Award-winner, taking on this cause?

Alana and Troy Pack were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with Bob’s wife, Carmen, when a drugged driver fell unconscious at the wheel and swerved off the road, killing the two children and injuring Carmen. The Packs also lost their unborn twins.

The driver, Jimena Barreto, turned out to be a doctor-shopping drug addict who was convicted of second-degree murder and imprisoned for 30 years to life. The Kaiser doctors who prescribed her thousands of pills, however, were never held accountable for their negligence.

Barreto had no physical symptoms, but managed to stockpile narcotics without any oversight.

In the wake of his family’s tragedy, Pack found that Kaiser’s doctors had no idea they were all over-prescribing to the same doctor shopper. There was no computer system tracking prescriptions patients received. Pack drew on his technology background to develop the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California. Unfortunately, too few doctors currently use the system. Kaiser does not use the CURES database either.

The Packs were only entitled to the cap of $250,000 for each of their children’s lives, because that is the maximum value of a child’s life under the 37-year-old cap on noneconomic damages signed into law during Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor. The cap is worth merely $58,000 today in 1975 dollars. Adjusting the cap for inflation would increase it to $1.1 million in 2013.

You can read the ballot measure here. You can read Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton’s column on the ballot measure here.

We’re off to the ballot again.

Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Hall of Famer Speaks Out In Bee On His Family’s Tragedy And Patient Safety

6:27 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Bob PackThe war over patient safety is heating up in Sacramento. Yesterday, Pulitizer Prize winning Los Angeles Times columnist Mike Hiltzik wrote a cut-to-the-heart of it column shredding the phony arguments of those resisting the patient safety reforms Bob Pack and Consumer Watchdog have been fighting for all year.

Hiltzik said,

It’s a very rare thing for a legislator to admit that a law he sponsored hasn’t worked out as expected. It’s even rarer for him to label it “oppressive” and call for its revision…It’s time to bring this 37-year-old law into the 21st century, and fix the malpractice system so that it actually works.

In today’s Sac Bee, Consumer Watchdog’s Rage for Justice Awards Hall of Famer Bob Pack responds to the medical-insurance lobby’s oped yesterday opposing reform by talking about why his family’s tragedy spurred his activism. Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg even weighed in on the debate saying, “It’s not going to go away.”

Here’s Bob’s powerful oped:

Viewpoints: Cap on medical negligence claims is outdated and unfair to victims
July 11, 2013

When my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son died suddenly on a roadside nine years ago, I was forced to confront not only the unimaginable grief of losing my young children forever, but also the reality that doctor discipline and accountability in California don’t exist.

Alana and Troy were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with my wife, Carmen, when a drugged driver fell unconscious at the wheel and swerved off the road, killing my two children and injuring Carmen. We also ended up losing our unborn twins as well.

The driver, Jimena Barreto, turned out to be a doctor-shopping drug addict who was convicted of second-degree murder and imprisoned for 30 years to life. The Kaiser doctors who prescribed her thousands of pills, however, were never held accountable for their negligence.

Barreto had no physical symptoms, but managed to stockpile narcotics without any oversight.

In the wake of my family’s tragedy, I found that Kaiser’s doctors had no idea they were all over-prescribing to the same doctor shopper. There was no computer system tracking prescriptions patients received. Since my background is in technology, I developed the electronic CURES database, a searchable system that tracks prescriptions dispensed in California.

Today, the tool is at the disposal of every doctor, law enforcement official and regulator in the state. Unfortunately, most of them don’t use it.

This is the sad story of the last 3 1/2 decades in California: physicians largely unwilling to police themselves, regulators turning a blind eye to available information about dangerous doctors, and a lack of legal deterrence to medical negligence.

The core of the failed doctor disciplinary system that killed my four children dates back to 1975. It was a punch in my gut when I learned that a California law capped the value of my children’s lives at $250,000.

Jerry Brown signed the law in his first term as governor, 37 years ago, and the amount has never been adjusted for inflation.

At the time, doctors promised that a strong new regulatory system would make up for the lost deterrence of the legal system, but patient safety scandals continue to rock California.

Kaiser still doesn’t utilize the CURES database. The physicians responsible for the death of my children were never disciplined by the California Medical Board. In fact, the current president of the medical board was the medical director at Kaiser who refused to make changes at the HMO following my family’s tragedy.

In 1975, legislators made $22,000 per year. Back then, a gallon of gasoline cost 57 cents. The value of everything has gone up since 1975, but not the $250,000 cap on the value of a child’s life.

The law is one size fits all, no matter how clear the negligence or how catastrophic the injury or loss. It sets a fixed cap on the value of a child’s life, and does the same to others whose quality of life is destroyed when their limbs, or vision, or ability to have a child are taken away by negligent doctors.

Of course, Troy and Alana were priceless. No amount of money can replace them. But when a child’s life is valued so little, patients face continued risks because the medical establishment has no incentive to change.

It’s time to adjust this 37-year-old cap so it is in line with the cost of living. Recently Barry Keene, the author of the law, came forward to say it should be indexed for inflation, and that was always the Legislature’s intent.

There is no danger malpractice insurance rates will rise. Since 1988, California’s malpractice insurance rates have been tightly regulated.

Unfortunately, the Legislature has not acted, which is why I am working with Consumer Watchdog on a ballot initiative, “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act,” for the 2014 ballot. If California lawmakers are unwilling to prevent another family from going through the same tragedy Carmen and I faced, the voters will have their chance.

Read the rest of this entry →