SACRAMENTO -- A coalition of healthcare providers and insurance companies has amassed a massive financial show of force as they prepare to fight an effort to raise limits on medical malpractice awards.
The opposition campaign had $31.3 million at the end of December, almost entirely in loans, according to a report filed Friday. The loans allow the contributors to retract their money if the proposed initiative does not qualify for the November ballot.
Meanwhile, supporters had just $374,843 in the bank at the end of December, but all of their resources came from cash contributions.
The battle over medical malpractice awards is likely to be one of the state's most expensive, pitting deep-pocketed healthcare providers against deep-pocketed trial lawyers.
The proposed initiative, if approved by voters, would raise the limits on jury awards for malpractice from $250,000 to $1 million. It would also require hospitals to randomly drug test physicians.
Chris Lehane, the political strategist working with the initiative's proponents, said raising money from loans is "one of the oldest tricks in the book" and it remains to be seen whether the opposition campaign follows through with big money.
"At the end of the day, if you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk," he said.
Lehane said the campaign continues to gather signatures, and he expects the measure will qualify for the ballot soon.
Jim DeBoo, the campaign manager for the opposition, said the loans show how serious healthcare providers and their allies are taking the issue.
"It's not a scare tactic," he said. "It's reality."