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Town Square

Danville resident files ballot measure to crack down on prescription drug abuse, medical malpractice

Original post made on Jul 31, 2013

With his ballot measure now officially filed, Danville resident Bob Pack is continuing his fight for medical reform legislation. In May, Pack traveled to Sacramento to talk to legislators in his campaign to crack down on prescription drug abuse and medical malpractice. For Pack, this issue is a personal one; in October 2003, his young son and daughter were struck and killed by driver Jimena Barreto, who had been drinking and taking Vicodin.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 2:44 PM

Comments

Posted by Bill, a resident of Danville
on Jul 31, 2013 at 7:22 am

I totally support the efforts by Bob Pack, but he is taking on the most entrenched, entitled organization imaginable. Remember the CMA made up of MD's that believe that MD stands for My Deity. They see Mr. Pack's endeavors as an attempt to bring some control over their behavior and prescription practices two areas that they believe are above the law and they are special and entitled. The likelihood of success is small unless there is a broad support from many, many people. The CMA counts on apathy and the fear they can instill in patients if they attempt to bring any controls upon them.


Posted by Aubrey, a resident of Alamo
on Jul 31, 2013 at 9:58 am

More Nanny state legislation looking for a payday via deep-pocket lawsuits. If a patient abuses ANY drug, prescription or otherwise, it's that person's responsibility, no one else's.

There are already laws on the books to address this, enforce those first...


Posted by American, a resident of Danville
on Jul 31, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Feel horrible for Mr. Pack and can not begin to understand the pain he must feel in losing his two children. However, he is being used by the ambulance chasing trial lawyers and his proposal will only line the pockets of the personal injury attorneys, while raising medical bills for consumers. Many states that do not have MICRA limits have counties where no doctor will deliver babies due to enormous medical malpractice premiums due to frivilous lawsuits and run away verdicts. Under current CA MICRA limits, when there is actual medical malpractice, victims can recover ALL of their medical bills, and all of their out of pocket special damages, plus $250,000 for pain and suffering.

In Mr. Pack's case, there was no actual medical malpractice, but rather a pathetic drunk driver mixed vicodin with booze, and ended up killing two innocent children. Ambulance chasing trial lawyers are using Mr. Pack's tragic situation to increase limits of pain and suffering to over a million dollars in medical malpractice cases, which will result in less doctors practicing in fields with high risks, such as delivering babies, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, vascular surgery, and oncology. Those that do practice in those areas will simply have to drastically increase their medical bills to cover the giant increase in their insruance premiums.

End result of this law will be less doctors in those fields, which will cause delay to consumers in getting appointments, and increases in medical bills. Only winners will be the ambulance chasing lawyers.

Throw the book at the drunk who killed these innocent children, increase drunk driving penalties, but passing this type of law will not prevent future drunks from killing children, but will only serve to hurt consumers in being able to get timely and affordable healthcare.


Posted by eagle, a resident of Alamo
on Jul 31, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Couldn't agree more with the excellent comments from American. While his motives, I'm sure are only the best, Mr. Pack's initiative will only enrich lawyers at the expense of driving up medical costs and health care premiums. If it were to pass, there might even be a crisis in California as there was in the 1970s when rapidly escalating malpractice premiums threatened to drive many physicians out of business and drive them into other states.

I cannot imagine what kind of past experiences could drive "Bill" to make such negative comments about physicians. We are fortunate that the vast majority of physicians in this community are very well qualified and caring and seem to work under increasing stress from insurance companies and government entities. Let's not make things worse.


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville
on Aug 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Don't know about the merits of this proposed law, but "eagle" and "American" are both perpetuating a long-since debunked myth - that "ambulance chasing lawyers" caused medical malpractice insurance premiums to skyrocket and drove doctors out of practice, etc.

Never happened. Urban myth. Insurance premiums rose due to insurance company investment losses. The total cost of medical malpractice insurance and lawsuits - overwhelmingly meritorious, I'd note - amount to less than 2% of the overall cost of medical practice. Look it up - the facts are out there.

We'd all like a get out of jail free card - whatever business we're in - so we wouldn't have to be responsible for the consequences of our screw ups, but the egregiously misnamed "tort reform" isn't the way to do it. As a Kaiser report noted: "One study found that 10% reduction in costs related to medical malpractice liability might actually increase the national mortality rate by 0.2 percent"

So - limit malpractice liability to try to cut that 2% cost to 1.8% and more people die. Great policy.


Posted by American, a resident of Danville
on Aug 4, 2013 at 9:35 am

"Huh": In North Carolina, where ambulance chasing lawyer John Edwards made over 30 million dollars a year for 10 years,with no malpractice limits, statistics showed infant mortality rates doubled, as doctors stopped delivering babies in many counties due to threats of run away verdicts. More people actually die or get sicker when malpractice limits go away, as doctors get out of specialities with high risk patients, such as delivering babies, ER surgeons, etc, and then you have to wait longer for medical care. In the medical field, waiting days, weeks, or sometimes minutes, can drastically affect the patient, and without reasonable malpractice limits this would happen in California.

Ask those same ambulancing chasing lawyers using Mr. Pack for their own gain, if they would agree to limit their recovery in malpractice cases to 10%, unlike 40% most get now if goes to trial, if malpractice limits went up to 1.1 million for general damages, and see how many would agree to this. Answer: None. They are using the Mr. Pack's of the world for their own financial gain. Meanwhile, all of us consumers and patients suffer.


Posted by Citizen Paine, a resident of Danville
on Aug 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

American: source, please?

Here's what that liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal, admitted about the mythical linkage between malpractice lawsuits and health care costs:

"Several economic studies (including work by us) have found that states that have enacted malpractice reforms experienced a mere 2%-5% reduction in health-care spending compared to states that have not. This has led to a loose consensus among most economists and policy makers that defensive medicine is not an important contributor to U.S. health-care spending—and therefore that malpractice reform is not of much significance for containing costs."

The article goes on to ignore that (= their own) evidence, based on the fact that they found some doctors who admit to ordering unnecessary tests. If significant, those costs would show up in overall cost figures, of course -- but they don't.

I'm guessing the source of American's claim is a publication owned by one Mr. Murdoch. Please, please prove me wrong.


Posted by Trudi, a resident of Diablo
on Aug 5, 2013 at 8:22 am

Responding to American-

Your statements below show your lack of understanding of the facts and you come off very ignorant, so I am here to help you son....

First, medical error and malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States....google that right now for verification!

Second, In Mr. Packs case, it was very clear in the trial, that the nanny who killed his kids was dopped up in prescription narcotics. These narcotics were obtained thru "doctor shopping". She admitted she we was going to multiiple doctors, day after day, and getting Rx's filled for multiple ailments, and none of the doctors bothered to access her records and go "wow, she has seen multiple doctors, multiple days and has filled miltiple Rx's for narcotics, this is a red flag !! Think of the intent of the nanny-shopping for narcotics, and think of the negligence of the doctors for dispensing the narcotics. That is where the malpractice was committed........institutional grade dope dealing.

Regarding malpractice insurance costs for doctors.....your ignorance again astounds this forum.

Proposition 103 regulates insurance premiums in California, so costs will not "skyrocket". Insurance companies' profits are regulated in our state because of Prop 103. How many times have you seen the headline: "anthem Blue cross proposes 37% increase in health insurance premiums". Then later, we see the insurance commission allow a 4% increase after they run the numbers of profits, loss ratios,etc.

The $250k MICRA cap was established in 1975, with no inflation adjustment. I think everyone in this forum would see the reasonableness of getting the cap back to where it was 38 years ago, adjusted for inflation. If you, American, still pay .78 / gallon for gas, pay .17 for a postage stamp, or pay $2.50 to go to the movie theatre, then good for you.....you are getting over on all of us.....as you have scammed the system by living on a 1975 cost of living...... just as neglegent health care purveyors have gotten over on victims of med malpractice. If you agree that it is appropriate to finance med mal insurance profits on the backs of med mal victims over the last 38 years, then good for you.

Money is truly the only unit of account to keep negligent doctors and hospitals honest. It gets their attention. All of us in this forum need this to keep the health care industry honest. It's a price we all pay to incentivize optimal care. Do you want your surgeon just to "mail it in" on a Tuesday afternoon because he has courtside tickets to game 7 for the Warriors? If you think we have no place to regulate behavior in medicine, then look no further then the IRS, do we have an incentive to pay our taxes? Yes, and if we don't, we'll good luck- you may need a lawyer.

Trial attorneys could make more money, but so will the attorneys for the doctors side defending bad doctors and health providers. The catalyst for all of the attorneys making more money is practicing negligent medicine.... they need more negligence! not a good business model. If better medicine is practiced, then not much to talk about here.....

Good doctors and healthcare providers will tell you they don't like having to subsidize the bad ones through malpractice premiums that are the same for ones who have no claims and the ones who have multiple claims in the same discipline. Could you imagine if auto insurance was the same?

We have and imperfect health system in America (America) that can be improved by Mr. Pack's efforts to be less imperfect.


Posted by American, a resident of Danville
on Aug 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm

"Trudi": Boy, you seem really objective, logical and open minded. Your comment that a surgeon would "mail it in" during surgery if he had Warriors tickets that night, unless MICRA was increased to $1.1 million for general damages,illustrates how completely out to lunch you are. Do you honestly believe that a surgeon would somehow do less of a job on a patient if he had Warriors tickets that night, unless he was afraid that MICRA limits were increased from $250,000 to $1.1 million for general damages? Do you know any surgeons, or their families, or do you only hang out with your husband's trial lawyer friends in Diablo?

By the way, AMA study found that physicians were not negligent in over 90% of all cases that went to trial. You can "google that". You can also read Jury Verdicts Weekly, and you will see very similar results in the Bay Area Courts, with the overwhelming amount of juries concluding that the physician's conduct was not below the standard of care, and was not negligent. The difference is when a doctor wins a lawsuit, he does not have a press conference and invite the liberal media to lecture the public, like the ambulance chsing lawyers do, but rather the doctor has to immediately get back to his patients, who have been without his services while he was tied up in a long frivilous lawsuit. A lot of frivilous lawsuits get filed now by ambulance chasing lawyers, and if you increase the general damages from $250,000 to $1.1 million, that will result in even more frivilous lawsuits with ambulance chaing lawyers willing to roll the dice for more of a potential pay out.

"Trudi", if you want to "fix" the medical system, how do you think encouraging physicians to leave certain high risk specialties, will solve that problem? How will longer waits to find a doctor to see you help the system?

If Mr.Pack wants to help the system, how about changing the law in CA, so that after the doctor beats the frivilous lawsuit 90% of the time in trial, that the plaintiff suing him AND HIS ATTORNEY are both on the hook for his costs, not just the plaintiff. Currently, in CA, it is only the plaintiff, not the plaintiff's attorney, who is responsible for the costs of the innocent doctor after trial. If we changed the law to make the plaintiff's attorney also on the hook for the costs, this would result in less frivilous lawsuits, insurance premiums would go down, and there would be less waiting to see your doctor who would no longer be tied up sitting thru a three week frivilous trial.


Posted by Trudi, a resident of Danville
on Aug 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm

American-

Correct, my husband, who was an attorney, died as a result of medical error and is no longer with us.

Unfortunately, the health care provider's conduct resulted in massive legal fees on top of a settlement. An authentic admission of error and settlement would have kept more money in the health system to keep costs low, but spending money to defend the undefendable is a way to keep health costs higher, and we all pay.

Please have the last word....

T


Posted by American, a resident of Danville
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:25 am

Few more facts on this issue:

Economic damages are unlimited under the current California law, meaning that patients can be compensated for any and all past and future medical expenses, as well as any and all past and future lost earnings. Hence, Trudi, if there was actually medical malpractice,meaning the medical care was below the standard of care, your husband under current law is entitled to ALL of his past and future medical expenses, and ALL of his past and future loss of income. So please do not falsely pretend that the current law leaves patients who suffer from actual medical malpractice without significant compensation.

Moreover, if the doctor's conduct was truly outrageous and grossly below the standard of care, your husband, under current California law, is entitled to punitive damages as well, which are not capped or limited at all. Current MICRA law does not have any limit on the amount you can recover for punitive damages.

Hence, under current California law, your husband would be entitled to all of his past and future medical bills, all of his past and future wage loss, unlimited amount for punitive damages, and an additional $250,000 for his pain and suffering or general damages. But, that is not enough for the ambulance chasing lawyers, who want to increase the pain and suffering cap from $250,000 to $1.1 million dollars.

This increase will give trial lawyers greater incentives to file meritless, frivilous lawsuits knowing that there will be greater pressure for defendants to settle, especially since often the medical malpractice insurance policy is up to $1 million, and thus the $1.1 million requested for this proposed new law would put pressure on the insurance companies to pay on frivilous suits so that they do not leave their insured doctors exposed beyond their insurance policies. You could not choose a worse time to make it more expensive to provide healthcare in California, as our state already has a shortage of medical providers and we are preparing to incorporate millions of new patients into the system with the implementation of federal health care reform.

Furthermore, a 2010 study by California's former nonpartisian legislative analyst found that increasing the limit just to $500,000(not the 1.1 million trial lawyers want with new law)could raise healthcare costs in California by up to $9.5 billion per year.

Finally, if you look at other states that do not have laws like MICRA to see the impact of excessive malpractice liability costs on access to care, take a look at New York, where 19 counties have no obstetricians, and 15 counties do not have surgical specialty doctors.

Obviously, there are always going to be heartbreaking stories about alleged medical errors, but the current system provides adequate compensation for the few true medical malpractice cases(over 90% all medical malpractice cases that go to trial result in jury deciding was no actual malpractice) and this new law would only benfit the trial lawyers, while us patients are put in danger because there will be less access to timely medical care.

"Trudi of Diablo", or "Trudi of Danville", or whoever you are, this is my final word. Thank you.


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Danville
on Aug 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

"Hence, under current California law, your husband would be entitled to all of his past and future medical bills, all of his past and future wage loss, unlimited amount for punitive damages, and an additional $250,000 for his pain and suffering or general damages. But, that is not enough for the ambulance chasing lawyers, who want to increase the pain and suffering cap from $250,000 to $1.1 million dollars." American, you appear to have missed an important point: Trudi's husband died as a result of medical malpractice. That pretty much eliminates any question of "future medical bills," doesn't it?

What's more, it costs a medical malpractice lawyer hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare a case for trial (I've seen the numbers.) That means that any case of medical malpractice which doesn't result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of out of pocket financial losses is economically unfeasible to bring.

American is simply arguing for a "get out of jail free" card for incompetent doctors, who by American's lights should not have to be as responsible for their negligence as a 16 year old car driver is.

Most cases of medical malpractice don't involve hundreds of thousands of dollars of out of pocket cash losses, and so are never filed. 95% of all tort claims that are filed are settled before trial. Only the tough ones go to trial. Whatever the percentage of claims that resolve either way might be it's just the tip of the iceberg. The key thing is that the limits and restrictions already in place mean that most people who are injured due to medical malpractice will never be compensated in any way, and many doctors who are incompetent will continue to hurt patients in the future. That's what happens when you exempt people from responsibility for the consequences of their actions.


Posted by Jana, a resident of Alamo
on Aug 13, 2013 at 8:40 am

There is now Internet access to pharmetical prescriptions that 95% of the pharmacies are now listing the drug, who prescribed it, when prescribed, how many refills. The hospital I'm employed goes online in sept. It's a national data base and should help track folks shopping for drugs. It does not address the future need of low cost drug rehab which we will be needing as a result of addicts with no supply.


Posted by JT, a resident of Danville
on Aug 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

Obviously an angry, righteous issue from both sides.
Best to keep it simple and just focus on putting systems in place to
"stop doctor shopping as a legal method for drug dealing."

My Aunt, addicted to some version of oxycodone and an expert at doctor shopping in New York, came to visit California and wanted to fill her prescriptions thru local pharmacies. And since she was a new customer, they asked for information from the originating doctor(s) in New York. It was that request that led to her being denied refills in California, and sent her on a tirade where her sister feared for her life.

The "system" that has backdoor methods for addicts to obtain drugs, legally, needs to be improved.


Posted by Debora, a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 13, 2013 at 10:35 am

You are so right"Jana"!!!!! These politically correct commentors here really are not hitting the nail on the head so to speak. "REHAB" is what we should be talking about here. You get rid of the demand, you get rid of the shady doctors and drug dealers. The addict has some responsibility here and so do the doctors but give the tools like "Jana" mentioned and now you have involved the Pharmacists and the State to help monitor. Wonderful! Don't blame the doctors for Addicts behavior and their disease of addiction. Lets build and offer care for those addicted right here in our own community and make that affordable or low/no cost to fight this. Did you guys forget about the abundance of Drug Dealers right here in your own community. Thus will just push the death tolls up because those addicted will then go to the streets and get their supply and end up dying with a needle in their arm from "Bad Stuff" as they say. I know these stories and have been a family member of addicts whom have almost died and I know from the Nar-anon Group I attend every Monday night at 7:30pm at the Danville Grange. Prevention starts at home and within yourself, I know.


Posted by Debora, a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 13, 2013 at 10:53 am

I agree with you "JT". Everyone who has experienced the Disease of Addiction with a Lived one or the reprecutions of an Addict, like them killing someone, is always looking for someone to blame. I know I was one of them! Once you realize that thus is a Disease you then know that you the family member or love one must learn the tools to manage and react to the Addict along with realizing your own contribution to the Addicts Behavior. Yes this is a Family Disease! The Doctors, Family Members, Neighbors, Thugs, wrong kind of friends, Boys, Girls, etc. did NOT cause the disease nor can they Control it nor can They Cure it but THEY can contribute to the Disease of Addiction!!!! So educating those people living and loving the Addict will HELP in ALL ways possible. By offering groups like Nar-anon and facilitues to help the mentally ill and addicts you will make the biggest impact on the Alcohol and Drug problem. We need FACILITIES (Rehabs) NOW!!