In the upcoming November election, California voters will decide on Proposition 46, a controversial patient safety initiative that could reduce “doctor shopping” and adverse events. If passed, doctors would need to consult the state database of serious narcotic prescriptions before prescribing painkillers to first-time patients. Currently, eight other states have this requirement, including Tennessee and New York, which both saw significant drops in the number of narcotics prescriptions as a result.
However, Proposition 46’s other provisions have made it unpopular with doctors. Namely, the law would raise the noneconomic malpractice award (a.k.a. pain and suffering damages) cap from $250,000 to $1.1 million. It also mandates drug and alcohol testing for doctors, both randomly and within 12 hours of an unexpected patient death or injury. Together, doctors and insurance companies have raised $57 million to defeat Proposition 46, making it the most expensive campaign of the fall election.