If you were alive in 1975, you may vaguely remember the cost of most goods and services as being somewhat less than they are today. In the economy of 1975, home prices averaged about $42,000, a stamp cost $0.10, gas was $0.57 per gallon, and the median household income was $11,800.
And California imposed a cap on medical malpractice damages of $250,000.
Let’s move almost 40 years forward. Today, that home will cost you about $259,000. Stamps are $0.49 and gas is hovering around $3.00 per gallon. But if you are a doctor in California, and you commit medical malpractice and injure a patient by your negligence, you get a deal.
That damage cap of $250,000? It’s still $250,000.
An effort to bring the damage caps into line with reality was defeated by a $60 million advertising campaign organized by the medical and insurance lobbies in the state. Outspending their opponents by 5 to 1, they successfully protected negligent doctors and short-changed families whose lives have been shattered by medical negligence.
Because bringing a medical malpractice case is very expensive and risky, the insurance lobby knows it can lock many injured patients out of the courthouse by ensuring they cannot recover enough in damages to enable any attorney to bring a lawsuit.
The lie they sell is that malpractice cases drive increases in the cost of healthcare. Funny thing is, healthcare costs in California have increased, just as they have everywhere in the U.S., whether or not there were damage caps in place.
Damage caps have not slowed healthcare increases because malpractice insurance and the payouts for medical malpractice lawsuits only account for a very small percent of health costs.
Latimes.com, “Prop. 46 foes spent $60 million to maintain 1975 malpractice award cap,” Melanie Mason, November 9, 2014