Politics

Proposition 46: Voter support drops when they hear the details, poll says

Proposition 46 increases the cap on medical malpractice suits and requires doctors to receive drug and alcohol testing.
Proposition 46 increases the cap on medical malpractice suits and requires doctors to receive drug and alcohol testing.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Voters support California's Proposition 46 by wide margins — until they hear the details of the initiative, particularly the fiscal impact, according to a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll.

The proposition increases the cap on medical malpractice suits, as well as requiring doctors to receive drug and alcohol testing.

In the poll, 62 percent of voters supported Prop 46 after being read the language on the ballot with 28 percent opposed, according to a press release from USC. However, support declines to 39 percent in favor and 50 percent opposed after hearing arguments from both sides.

Proponents say the proposition would ensure patient safety and hold doctors accountable, as well as allowing lawyers to take on important malpractice cases, according to the release. However, opponents counter that it would drive up state and local government costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, raising insurance rates, as well as increasing bureaucracy and keeping doctors from providing care. It would also create a database of patients' personal medical prescription information, created and run by the government.

"The initiative sponsors were very smart," USC's Dan Schnur said in the statement. "But a ballot initiative is only as strong as its weakest link, and the polling shows that voters’ concerns about medical malpractice are outweighing their eagerness for doctors to be drug tested."

On the specific points, 70 percent of voters were in favor of drug and alcohol testing for doctors, as well as requiring the California Medical Board to suspend doctors with positive tests, according to the release — 24 percent of voters were opposed. Voters split on increasing the medical malpractice cap from $250,000 to $1 million though, with 43 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.