Capitol Alert

Ad Watch: Proposition 46 foes distort reality in new TV ad

The campaign formed to oppose Proposition 46 has added to its critique of the measure, arguing in a new TV ad called “ Inside” that it puts Californians’ medical information at risk.

The multipronged proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot would more than quadruple the maximum medical malpractice award; mandate drug and alcohol testing for doctors; and require physicians to consult a state drug history database before issuing certain prescriptions. This ad focuses entirely on the prescription drug provision.

Here is text of the ad, followed by analysis from Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Text: “There’s a secret inside Proposition 46. A troubling provision that puts your personal medical information at risk. It’s right here. Prop. 46 requires doctors to consult a vulnerable government-run database containing your personal prescription drug history, open to law enforcement, hackers, identity thieves or simply accidents. And there’s no money in Prop. 46 to secure the database. Invading our privacy, another serious risk, and why to vote no on Prop. 46.”

The script is accompanied by an onscreen graphic that reads: “Hospital network hacked” and “4.5 million records stolen.”

Analysis: The ad says nothing about the medical malpractice provision that is the main impetus for the measure. What it does say is so misleading that it falls into the whopper category.

The database it refers to – the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, known as CURES – isn’t a new system. It has been around since 1997, and an electronic, more user-friendly version debuted in 2009. For certain types of prescription drugs, pharmacies are required to provide patient information such as a name, address and date of birth to the state Department of Justice. The system gets about 4 million prescription inputs a month. Nothing in the initiative would change that. The state attorney general said in a legislative analysis last year that 48 other states have a prescription-drug-monitoring program.

Beginning in 2016, existing state law will require providers to register with CURES, but they will not have to check the database before dispensing drugs. Under Proposition 46, physicians and pharmacists would be required to check CURES before prescribing or dispensing certain drugs for the first time – a measure proponents say would prevent patients from obtaining narcotics prescriptions from multiple doctors.

State legislation providing funding for the database was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. Among the bill’s supporters was the California Medical Association, a leading opponent of Proposition 46, whose campaign now argues in the ad that the system is intrusive and vulnerable. The ad doesn’t say that money is already allocated and work is under way to ensure the system continues to meet state and federal privacy-information security laws.

The CURES system has never been breached. The ad’s onscreen graphic cites an unrelated August report by CNN Money about an announcement by Community Health Systems, which operates hospitals nationally, that hackers had broken into its computers and taken data on 4.5 million patients.

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