By Matt Cate, Executive Director, California State Association of Counties.

As the head of the statewide organization representing California’s diverse 58 counties in Sacramento, I watch ballot measures with avid interest to see whether they will help or harm county government and the people we serve.

That is why the California State Association of Counties opposes Proposition 46, which would raise the limit on certain damages in medical lawsuits. We are joined by other respected local government organizations including the League of California Cities, the California Special Districts Association, the California School Boards Association, the Urban Counties Caucus and the Rural County Representatives Association of California. In fact, every local government association in California that has taken a position on Proposition 46 opposes it.

The measure is also strongly opposed by leading labor unions, businesses, doctors, hospitals, community health clinics and many others.

CSAC believes Proposition 46 would make it much harder for California counties to deliver vital care to millions of patients and will increase costs for local governments and taxpayers by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. This fiscally irresponsible measure must be defeated to protect patients and taxpayers.

According to California’s independent Legislative Analyst, Prop. 46 could increase state and local government costs by up to “hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

Prop. 46’s main provision would quadruple the non-economic damages cap on California’s successful Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), the law that governs legal proceedings if someone is injured in a medical procedure. This single change will triple trial lawyers’ legal fees in the non-economic damages portion of medical lawsuits filed against doctors and hospitals.  (Note: Under MICRA, economic damages for past and future lost wages, past and future medical costs, and punitive damages are unlimited.)

This change would make it easier and more profitable for trial lawyers to sue doctors and hospitals. California’s counties would be hit hard by this change because we run hospitals and clinics, and we offer health care services for the underserved and hardest to reach populations. Counties would have to pay higher medical malpractice premiums if Proposition 46 were to pass. Counties that are self-insured would have to wholly cover the costs of higher payouts in medical lawsuits – meaning redirecting dollars out of the delivery or care or other local services.

And Prop 46’s negative impacts go beyond dollars and cents. Higher liability costs could also force county clinics and hospitals to reduce care or could make it too costly to hire necessary doctors and health care workers. Access to care will be restricted if Prop. 46 were to pass, negatively impacting low-income patients the most.

I encourage all Californians to join respected local government organizations, the medical community, organized labor, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Democrats and Republicans alike in voting NO on Proposition 46. It’s a risky proposition that we cannot afford.