California’s Prop 46 Fails — A Cautionary Tale and The Power of Organized Medicine

The following is an excerpt from the California Medical Association’s note to its members after California voters rejected Proposition 46 at the polls on November 4. This serves as an example of what can happen when physicians come together with other stakeholders, much as the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) members did in 2012 for our successful Tort Reform battle.

On November 4, the voters of California spoke loudly and definitively, sending the trial lawyers’ Proposition 46 to defeat by a vote of 67 to 33. Proposition 46 was a three- pronged ballot measure that would have:

  • Quadrupled the limit on medical malpractice awards in California.
  • Required a massive expansion of the state’s prescription drug monitoring database, which is already underfunded and understaffed and Prop. 46 didn’t include any additional funding or security measures to help ensure it was running effectively.
  • Required both random and mandatory alcohol and drug testing of doctors.

The measure was written and almost exclusively funded by the trial attorneys, and while they claimed it was about “patient safety” it was really about increasing their payouts. Once California voters learned the real intent of Prop. 46, they were decidedly opposed to the measure.

One of the secret weapons of this effort was the size and diversity of our coalition. A full list of the No on Proposition 46 campaign can be seen here. The efforts of the California Medical Association, county medical societies and specialty societies across the state is a tremendous showing of what we can do for the future of health care, the quality of medicine and the dedication to patients everywhere.

This was one of the most contentious and high-stakes ballot fights in California history and we rose to the occasion. As we look ahead to the next hurdles that face the future of health care, we will do so together as a provider community looking to help our physician members uphold the oath that they’ve taken and our promise to them.


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