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Ad Watch: Commercial backing Proposition 46 leaves out costs

Proponents of Proposition 46 are up with another TV ad, this one featuring Bob Pack, a Bay Area man behind the measure whose two children were killed by a driver high on prescription drugs.

The Nov. 4 ballot initiative would more than quadruple the state’s $250,000 cap on medical malpractice awards, mandate random drug and alcohol testing of doctors, and require physicians and pharmacists to consult a statewide drug-history database before prescribing or dispensing certain drugs for the first time.

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

Text: Insurance companies are spending millions of dollars trying to mislead you about the effects of Proposition 46. Well, here’s the truth: 46 will save lives; it will save money, too.

I’m Bob Pack, and I am fighting for Prop. 46 because I lost my two children to preventable medical errors, and I don’t want anyone else to lose theirs. The three provisions in 46 will reduce medical errors and protect patients. Save money and save lives. Yes on 46.

Text onscreen: “Tests doctors for drugs and alcohol. Safeguards against prescription drug abuse. Holds medical industry accountable.”

Analysis: The driver who killed Pack’s children, ages 7 and 10, had obtained prescriptions for painkillers from multiple doctors. It’s a reasonable argument, therefore, that the measure’s requirement that physicians consult a state prescription drug database could save lives.

Contending the measure also will save money is more problematic. Pack, with the help of an onscreen citation to the Legislative Analyst’s Office report, is referring to projected savings from lower prescription drug costs and reduced costs related to prescription abuses.

Left out of the ad is another portion of the measure’s fiscal analysis, which predicts higher state and local government costs due to higher medical malpractice damages, “likely ranging from tens of millions to several hundred million dollars annually.” The analysis says costs would be offset “to some extent” by the savings.

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