For nearly five decades, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has been a bulwark — protecting affordable access to quality care. Over the years, however, a growing concern — over the longstanding $250,000 cap on non-economic damages — began to arise from attorneys seeking greater compensation for injured patients.
Last week, CHA, as part of a broad coalition, announced that a historic agreement had been reached to extend the vital protections for access to care and at the same time to ensure that patients and their families are cared for in all ways in the unfortunate case of a health care-related injury or death.
This agreement — now making its way through the Legislature in the form of Assembly Bill 35 — modernizes MICRA in three key ways:
- The limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases (there is no limit at all on economic damages) will be increased from the current $250,000 as follows:
- Cases involving patient injury: $350,000 starting Jan. 1, 2023, with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $750,000
- Cases involving a patient death: $500,000 starting Jan. 1, 2023, with an incremental increase over the next 10 years to $1 million
- After 10 years, limits will be increased by 2% annually.
- The new limits will apply only to cases filed or arbitrations demanded on Jan. 1, 2023, or later; there is no retroactive application of the agreement.
With the passage of this legislative proposal, a ballot measure opposed by CHA — one that would have eliminated MICRA protections by creating a broad new category of lawsuits under which no cap on non-economic damages or attorneys’ fees would apply — will not appear on the November ballot, and no future ballot measures will be needed for these modifications to take effect.
In the past week, CHA held two webinars to provide more details about how this agreement will affect California hospitals. A recording is available for your reference.
The bill is expected to move swiftly through both legislative chambers, and it is expected the governor will sign it shortly after passage.
This agreement, the result of months of negotiation in good faith among all parties, creates a path forward that puts the needs of Californians first — a doctrine that you, as hospital leaders, continue to hold as paramount.