Why Did California’s Proposition 46 Fail?
In 1975, California created a cap for payouts in medical malpractice cases at $250,000, which has not been adjusted since. Proposition 46 was an answer to this. It would raise the cap to $1.1 million and index it to the rate of inflation.
When proposed, the bill garnered huge support. Early polls indicated 58 percent of voters supported the raise, with only 30 percent opposing. Yet when it came to vote, the bill crashed with 32 percent affirmative votes and 68 percent opposing. What led to this flip-flop in opinion?
The proposition incited a vicious battle between doctors and attorneys, and Prop. 46 became one of California’s most expensive ballot initiatives. With $70 million raised between the two sides, the stakes were clearly high. Doctors, against the proposition, cited worries about rising healthcare costs and the potential for lawsuits. Attorneys, sworn to protect medical malpractice clients, were stark supporters of the legislation.
How Did the “No on 46” Campaign Win?
In the end, the doctors outspent the lawyers by a huge margin, and their campaign against the proposition succeeded, despite rebuttals against their claims. The “Yes on 46” campaign pointed out that indexing the caps to inflation would still result in above-average profits for insurers, that the costs for malpractice payments and insurance only account for a tiny portion of total healthcare spending, and that the current caps had never reduced healthcare costs. All of these arguments were ignored. Voters found more compelling the “No on 46” arguments that the costs of higher caps would fall on them despite evidence to the contrary, and that raising the caps would welcome more big government intrusion.
While the failure of Proposition 46 is a loss for malpractice victims, there is still potential for residents of other states to receive just compensation. Recently, Florida, Georgia and Illinois have outlawed caps on medical malpractice payouts because they violate the United States Constitution. Perhaps in the near future, more states will do the same.
Shapiro Law Group – Medical Malpractice Attorneys Serving the Tampa Bay Area