A Landmark Agreement to Preserve California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) Has Been Reached
April 27, 2022, Statement from the Coalition to Protect MICRA:
We are pleased to announce that key stakeholders have come together in good faith and common cause to reach agreement on proposed legislation to modify California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (or MICRA).
After decades of debate about the need to ensure health care that is accessible and affordable for all while balancing appropriate compensation for Californians experiencing health care-related injury or death, this agreement strikes a new balance by doing two things:
- Extends the long-term predictability and affordability of state liability protections for those providing medical care in California, and
- Provides a fair and reasonable increase to limits on non-economic damages (there is no cap on economic damages such as medical costs or lost salaries) for medical malpractice starting January 1, 2023 – with gradual increases thereafter.
The revised framework includes several provisions that would update MICRA while continuing its medical liability protections. The most central provision would change the limits on non-economic damages. Current law limits recovery of non-economic damages to $250,000. The proposal will increase the existing limit to $350,000 for non-death cases and $500,000 for wrongful death cases on the effective date of January 1, 2023. This will be followed by incremental increases over 10 years to $750,000 for non-death cases and $1,000,000 for wrongful death cases, after which a 2.0% annual inflationary adjustment will apply.
Under this agreement, the rights of patients are protected, as are MICRA’s essential guardrails ensuring broad-based health access.
More significantly, this compromise demonstrates a unified commitment by all stakeholders to put the interests and wellbeing of Californians ahead of historic conflicts. In doing so, we continue to ensure that, in America’s largest state, patients and their families are cared for in all ways.
Click here to read the joint press statement announcing the agreement.
Next Steps in the Process
California law allows proponents to withdraw a measure from the ballot if there is an agreement before the deadline of June 30th. With stakeholders now in agreement about moving forward, both sides are working in coordination with the governor’s office and legislative leaders to advance legislation that would be finalized before the initiative withdrawal deadline.
Assuming expedited approval by the legislature and governor, the updates to MICRA would take effect January 1, 2023. This year’s ballot measure that would have dismantled MICRA will not appear on the November ballot, and no future ballot measures would be needed for the adjustments of the cap noted above to take effect.
We will share additional updates as we move forward and appreciate your commitment to protecting access to care for all Californians.
About the Ballot Measure
A ballot measure being pushed by wealthy out-of-state trial attorneys is heading to the November 2022 ballot that would substantially raise healthcare costs for all Californians, reduce access, and exploit patients for profit.
The so-called “Fairness for Injured Patients Act” is the latest trial lawyer-funded statewide ballot measure scheme to end California’s long-standing liability reform law—the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
This measure will limit patient access to care, vastly increase the number of lawsuits filed in California, and further divert resources for patient care to the legal system. It would effectively eliminate the cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice awards and hold physicians and others personally liable to pay medical malpractice awards.
If it passes, the measure will have a chilling effect on the healthcare profession and have a trickle-down effect that would be born primarily by low-income patients, who would face higher costs and restricted access to care.
The Doctors Company has joined hundreds of organizations in opposing the so-called Fairness for Injured Patients Act (FIPA) because it will devastate our healthcare delivery system, hurt community health centers, and raise healthcare costs for ALL Californians.
For many years, California’s medical liability system has been protected by a bipartisan series of laws called MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act), which has balanced the rights of injured patients while keeping healthcare more accessible and affordable for all patients.
FIPA will be on the ballot this November and, if passed, will effectively eliminate MICRA’s protections. Funded by a wealthy out-of-state trial attorney, this proposition would be a windfall for lawyers at the expense of California’s most vulnerable patients.
MICRA ensures that injured patients receive compensation while preserving access to health care by keeping providers in practice and hospitals and clinics open. Without MICRA’s protections, many of California’s neediest populations could face reduced access to these much-needed services.
This flawed initiative would:
- Eliminate the cap on both non-economic damages and attorneys’ fees. The initiative creates a new category of injuries that are not currently recognized under California law. This new, broadly defined category of malpractice lawsuits allows for unlimited attorneys’ fees and unlimited non-economic damages.
- Reward lawyers before patients. Current law allows for patients to be paid for future damages over time as their treatment and recovery continues. This measure requires all damages to be paid in a large lump sum and increases the risk that patients could run out of money before their recovery is complete. These lump-sum payments allow trial attorneys to collect more in fees.
- Result in more, not less, frivolous lawsuits. Unlike other judicial transparency laws in California, this measure would expressly prohibit judges from independently verifying the truthfulness of statements made by trial attorneys in certain court filings known as “certificates of merit” and from disciplining them for dishonesty.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, this flawed initiative will drive up healthcare costs for all Californians by tens of millions “to high hundreds of millions of dollars annually.” This initiative would obliterate existing safeguards for medical lawsuits—resulting in skyrocketing healthcare costs and huge windfalls for attorneys.
This is not the first attempt to alter MICRA, but it is the most damaging. Now, The Doctors Company and hundreds of other organizations are part of a growing coalition to defeat FIPA this November.
With Election Day this year, we need your help to educate millions of Californians about the disastrous impact this initiative would have on our healthcare system.
The future of MICRA is on the line. We know that through our collective efforts, The Doctors Company and hundreds of other healthcare organizations can defeat this dangerous measure and ensure continued access to care for millions of Californians. For more information about the campaign and to stay up to date with current events and news about this initiative, and to learn how you can help defeat FIPA, please visit thedoctors.com/micra and micra.org.