Shift in healthcare policy supported by local voters

By Brian Boyle, Spotlight Editor

The Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors Medical Negligence Lawsuits Initiative Statute, more commonly referred to as Proposition 46, is more than meets the eye.

If passed, Proposition 46 would require that doctors be tested to screen for drug and alcohol abuse. In wake of a positive test, the doctor in question would be suspended until such a time as the test results can be confirmed as a true or a false positive.

Doctors would also be required to report to the state medical board. The proposition would also raise the cap on financial recompense which can be sought due to pain and suffering caused by medical negligence or malpractice from $250,000 to $1.1 million, and would tie the cap to inflation.

Proposition 46 would also require doctors consult a database of what prescriptions patients are on before prescribing narcotics such as Vicodin.

The database requirement is meant to help identify people known as doctor-shoppers, who go between doctors collecting prescriptions for narcotics and other drugs.

The immediate effects of this would be an increase in health care costs in California, according to Donna Emanuele, the president of the California Association of Nurse Practitioners. In a joint statement released by Emanuele’s organization, the California Children’s Hospital Association and the California branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Proposition 46 was accused of being beneficial only to trial lawyers who will profit from the increased cap on damages.

The tying of the cap on medical malpractice damages to inflation opens the door for health care costs to continue to rise further if inflation were to increase.

Supporters of Proposition 46 say as accidents related to medical negligence decrease, and as the prescription monitoring aspect of Proposition 46 decreases prescription drug abuse, health care costs will fall. There is currently no evidence that Proposition 46 will lead to any of these things.

Bob Pack, a father whose 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were killed when a drunk driver under the influence of prescription drugs jumped the curb of the sidewalk on which his children were playing, released a statement in favor of Proposition 46.

He said the law’s requirement that doctors consult a medical database might have prevented such an accident as the one that killed his children.