One of the more expensive ballot initiative fights is taking place in California for the 2014 fall elections. The initiative is Proposition 46 which would raise the cap for pain and suffering awards for medical malpractice in California from $250,000 to $1.1 million and would require random drug testing for doctors and other health care professionals, according to the Washington Post.
The medical malpractice part of Prop 46 has two opposing camps lined up for and against it. For the proposition is a coalition of trial lawyers and patient rights groups. Doctors, labor unions, and insurance companies are lined up against and are providing the bulk of the $56 million being spent on the ballot fight.
While the medical malpractice part of Prop 46 is attracting the usual rhetoric about increases in health care costs vs. fairness to patients and their families who have been harmed by doctors, the drug testing part has also attracted notice, according to the Sacramento Bee. The theory is that if airline pilots and others have to urinate in a cup, why not health care workers? Indeed there have been a few cases of patients who have been harmed because their health care providers had been abusing prescription drugs to which they have ready access.
Those in favor of Prop 46 claim that in an environment where millions of California citizen’s are routinely drug tested by employers, doctors are largely flying under the radar. Because they’re not tested, there isn’t a lot of data about how many doctors may have substance abuse issues. However, the state medical board found in a 2000 report that perhaps one or two percent of practicing physicians may have substance abuse problems.
Opponents of Prop 46 accuse supporters of masking their true intent by including the drug testing provision, which they claim is to enrich trial lawyers at the expense of doctors. However there has been no position taken by the California Medical Association about a stand-alone drug testing law.
The drug testing provision would require the hospitals conduct random drug and alcohol tests of their affiliated doctors. Doctors would also be required to take a drug test if they were involved in an “adverse event” that harmed a patient.