May 23, 2022
Governor Gavin Newsom on May 23, 2022, signed Assembly Bill 35 into law, and in doing so put an end to a decades long political battle and ushered in a new era of stability around malpractice liability.
Since California’s landmark medical malpractice reforms – the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) – were enacted almost 50 years ago, they have successfully struck a balance between compensatory justice for injured patients while maintaining an overall health care system that is accessible and affordable for Californians.
Since that time, California’s physician and provider communities have repeatedly defended MICRA through expensive battles at the ballot, in the courtroom and in the legislature.
This year, we were again facing another costly initiative battle. The so-called Fairness for Injured Patients Act, which had qualified for the November 2022 ballot, would have obliterated existing safeguards for out-of-control medical lawsuits and would have resulted in skyrocketing health care costs.
But for the first time in a generation, we were met with an opportunity to achieve a meaningful consensus between competing interests through a revised framework that could protect both the rights of injured patients while keeping MICRA’s essential guardrails solidly in place for patients and providers alike.
“With today’s signing of AB 35, we have achieved what few thought was possible,” said California Medical Association President Robert E. Wailes, M.D. “This historic moment happened because the two sides of the ballot measure campaign put differences aside, found common ground, and recognized a rare opportunity to protect both our health care delivery system and the rights of injured patients. We are immensely grateful to the Legislature and Governor Newsom for helping to codify this landmark agreement in law.”
AB 35 passed through the California Legislature with nearly unanimous support, demonstrating broad bipartisan support. As part of the landmark agreement reflected in AB 35, proponents of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act have withdrawn the initiative. The initiative cannot be returned to the November 2022 ballot.
California’s new modernized MICRA statutes will provide predictability and affordability of medical liability insurance rates for decades to come, while protecting existing safeguards against skyrocketing health care costs. It will also bring greater accountability, patient safety and trust by making it possible for physicians and patients to have a full and open conversation after an unforeseen outcome.
“CMA is proud to have been part of this landmark achievement for the benefit of all Californians,” said Dr. Wailes. “We look forward to a new era of long-term stability around MICRA that will allow California’s physician and provider communities to focus on other ways to improve access to care and public health for all Californians.”
Learn more at cmadocs.org/micra.