California’s Legislative Leaders Join Health Care Providers, Consumer Attorneys and Patient Advocates in Announcing Landmark Agreement to Modernize California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA)
In a historic agreement, California’s legislative leaders today joined with Californians Allied for Patient Protection, Consumer Attorneys of California and both the Yes and No campaigns of a scheduled November ballot measure to announce a new consensus has been reached between health care, legal and consumer advocates on legislation to modernize the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
MICRA, first passed and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 1975, was established to set limits on medical malpractice awards, balancing compensatory justice for injured patients against important legal and financial protections for health care providers. After decades of political debate, this updated framework will extend the long-term predictability and affordability of medical liability protections for those providing medical care in California while providing a fair and reasonable increase to limits on non-economic damages for medical negligence beginning January 1, 2023, with gradual increases thereafter.
“This bill will go a long way to help patients and their families seek justice when injured after obtaining care,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). “The collaborative effort from all sides will ultimately strengthen protections for Californians and I’m appreciative to my colleagues, Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes and Senator Tom Umberg, for their leadership, and to the coalition, Governor Gavin Newsom, and Speaker Anthony Rendon, for their dedication to help settle this issue for the public good.”
“This is a strong accomplishment and I want to thank all parties for working out a deal,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “This includes Majority Leader Eloise Reyes for her hand in the process. This is a great example of what can be accomplished when historically opposing sides talk with one another. The people of California benefit.”
“We have long advocated for policies that protect both patients and the essential guardrails established under MICRA that ensure broad-based access to care for all Californians,” said Lisa Maas, Executive Director, Californians Allied for Patient Protection. “Today’s announcement demonstrates a unified commitment by all stakeholders to put the interests and wellbeing of Californians first.”
The legislation will most notably adjust MICRA’s cap on non-economic damages, which is currently limited to $250,000. This new law will increase the existing limit to $350,000 for non-death cases and $500,000 for wrongful death cases on the effective date January 1, 2023, followed by incremental increases over 10 years to $750,000 for non-death cases and $1,000,000 for wrongful death cases, after which a 2.0% annual inflationary adjustment will apply.
“After nearly 50 years of inaction on a law that capped the value of human life and losing my own son to medical negligence, I wrote and funded the Fairness for Injured Patients Act to effectuate much-needed change,” said Nick Rowley, author and primary funder of the November ballot measure. “I never envisioned a legislative compromise, but I’m very proud that our work has led us to this point. When this becomes law, we will have changed history for the better.”
“CAOC has fought tirelessly alongside thousands of injured patients for the last fifty years to make sure they are fairly compensated when their rights have been violated,” said Craig Peters, President, Consumer Attorneys of California. “After decades of impasse, we have finally reached an historic agreement with medical providers that finally updates California’s Medical Injury Compensation Act of 1975 to prioritize patients’ access to justice and quality health care.”
“This balanced proposal modernizes and updates MICRA while preserving its essential guardrails, strengthening provider protections and providing for fair compensation for injured patients,” said Dustin Corcoran, CEO of the California Medical Association and Chair of the Campaign to Protect Access and Contain Costs. “This framework is essential to our shared goal of health access for all Californians. We look forward to working with the Legislature and the Newsom Administration to enact this historic proposal.”
The proposal will also create three separate categories of caps, which could apply depending on the facts of each case. Additionally, a health care provider or health care institution can only be held liable for damages under one category regardless of how the categories are applied or combined. The new categories include:
- One cap for health care providers (regardless of the number of providers or causes of action)
- One cap for health care institutions (regardless of the number of providers or causes of action)
- One cap for unaffiliated health care institutions or providers at that institution that commit a separate and independent negligent act
“Times have changed, but MICRA hasn’t. Although there have been countless efforts to update the language in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, there has been little success,” said Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Inland Empire), the enabling bill’s lead author. “This year, the stakeholders representing patients and the medical community were determined to provide a balanced and equitable solution. They have succeeded. The result is AB 35, which represents a monumental agreement for the benefit of all involved.”
“As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a practicing attorney, I know first-hand that an update to California’s medical malpractice statutes is long overdue,” said the bill’s Senate author, Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana). “I’m impressed with the work that has gone into this proposal by all stakeholders and proud to be playing a role in restructuring the system in a manner that is fair to all parties.”
“This is about justice for families, especially women of color who experience more medical negligence in a biased health care system and then are denied accountability because of California’s outdated cap,” said Charles Johnson, Chair of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act. “When the Legislature approves this compromise, families will finally be able to find an attorney and have their day in court. That’s what I wanted for Kira. I want to be able to tell my sons that we restored Californians’ access to justice.”
“This compromise will help to ensure that community health centers across California that serve some of our state’s most vulnerable patients, will have continued access to safe, affordable health care,” said Jodi Hicks, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President and CEO. “It was important for Planned Parenthood to have a voice in this process because the proposed initiative would have caused significant harm to California’s safety net. We’re pleased to see a solution that creates long term stability and protects access to care for those who need it most.”
Once passed and signed by the Governor, this legislative framework will preclude a costly ballot measure that was set to appear on the November ballot.