The Buzz: Darrell Steinberg weighs in on controversy pitting doctors against lawyers

July 11, 2013 

4C11BUZZ

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

When Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg met with the Capitol press corps Wednesday, a question arose about the law known by the acronym MICRA.

The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 limits the amount that courts may award victims of medical negligence for pain and suffering. It's capped at $250,000.

This is an explosive issue in the state Capitol, and it pits lawyers against doctors – two influential interest groups that few legislators want to cross.

Attorneys have mounted a publicity campaign to make the case that the $250,000 cap needs to be lifted.

Consumer Attorneys of California and Consumer Watchdog say they plan to file an initiative this summer if the Legislature doesn't act to lift the cap.

Doctors, hospitals and other medical groups, meanwhile, say lifting the cap would make malpractice insurance more expensive, ultimately making health care more costly.

The California Medical Association and other health groups are urging lawmakers to maintain the status quo.

Steinberg noted that the cap has been in place for decades.

"This issue is not going to go away," he said. The sides, he added, "ought to sit down and ... work out a reasonable lifting of this cap."

– Laurel Rosenhall

BUDGET WATCH

California collected about $1.2 billion more in tax revenue in June than Gov. Jerry Brown projected, ending the fiscal year about $2 billion ahead of expectations, state Controller John Chiang reported Wednesday. He also noted that the state ended the fiscal year with a cash deficit of $2.4 billion, down from $9.6 billion a year ago.

– David Siders

WORTH REPEATING

"We feel we achieved modest, but fair improvements."

BRADY OPPENHEIM, a consultant for the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, which announced Wednesday that it has reached a tentative three-year agreement with the state that includes a 4.25 percent pay raise for the 6,000-member bargaining unit by 2015

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