MICRA initiative qualifies for ballot, privacy concerns heighten

May 16, 2014
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Licensing & Regulatory Issues MICRA 

The initiative seeking to alter California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has officially qualified for the November ballot. 

The initiative, which qualified yesterday, is written and funded by trial attorneys and their allies. In addition to increasing the overall number of medical lawsuits and the cost of health care across the board, it contains a number of unrelated provisions designed to mislead and deceive voters – including a little-discussed mandate relying on a massive expansion of a government-run prescription drug database, which third-party analysts say cannot be implemented as written and will leave personal medical information vulnerable to privacy breach. 

The initiative will be assigned a proposition number in early July. 

We always knew this flawed measure was bad for the pocketbooks of everyday Californians, but the more they read the fine print, the more they realize it’s equally bad for their personal privacy,” said Jim DeBoo, campaign manager for the broad-based coalition of Californians formed to oppose the initiative. “If this measure passes, it will mandate a database that isn’t properly working and open the privacy floodgates to the sensitive personal medical data of millions of Californians with no increased security safeguards or funding. It’s a hacker’s dream – and a privacy nightmare.” 

The initiative requires health care practitioners and pharmacists to consult a government-run prescription drug database (known as CURES) prior to prescribing or dispensing Schedule II or III controlled substances to patients. 

The mandate relies on the uploading of personal prescription drug records of millions of California patients onto the database – accessible by hundreds of thousands of users. But the initiative fails to add new funding for its expedited expansion or require any additional security standards or safeguards to prevent hacking, theft or improper access by non-medical personnel. 

What’s more, experts such as Tim Gage, former California Finance Director and Principal at Blue Sky Consulting, have said that the CURES mandate included in the initiative “cannot be implemented as written.” 

The consequences of mandating the use of a government-run website that experts say won’t work when required before physicians are allowed to prescribe needed medication is nothing less than a recipe for disaster,” said Richard Thorp, M.D., President of the California Medical Association. 

The CURES database mandate problem comes at a time of widespread reports of illegal hacking, and federal warnings that the entire health sector was particularly vulnerable to “attacks by hackers searching for Americans’ personal medical records.” 

Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported 991 separate incidences of medical data breaches involving 500 people or more, affecting a total of 30 million patients. While many states are moving to increase protections for online prescription drug data, this measure would have the opposite effect in California. 

The coalition opposing the ballot measure continues to grow; for a full updated list of who has officially signed on against the initiative, visit the campaign website. 

For more information on the proposed initiative, and the damaging effects it would have on consumer privacy, please visit MICRA Resource Center or www.stophigherhealthcarecosts.com


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