Tort reform is a hot-button issue among physicians. It distorts the practice of medicine by compelling doctors to order tests, the lack of which, might be used against them. It makes each patient a potential enemy. It forces doctors to spend time in extensive documentation. It imposes extensive, often unnecessary, costs on the health system. And it received little attention in the new health reform law, other than being kicked down the road through a demonstration project, which will further delay the need for further action.
Well, Texas acted on tort reform back in 2003-2005, and the fruits of that reform have since become apparent. A WSJ editorial on December 15 , which I shall quote listed these benefits.
“This Texas upgrade would build on reforms in 2003 and 2005 that have vastly improved the legal climate in what has not coincidentally become the country’s best state for job creation. Texas rewrote everything from class-action certification to product liability. One success was rationalizing the asbestos-silica litigation scam. Another was an overhaul of medical malpractice laws, ending the practice of venue shopping for friendly judges and putting a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.”
“Before the reform, Texas was a kind of holy place on the tort bar pilgrimage. Now it’s a Mecca for doctors, especially the emergency physicians, obstetricians and surgical specialists who elsewhere can face blue-sky malpractice premiums.
Liability rates have fallen by 27.5% on average since 2003. The number of doctors applying to practice in Texas has increased 60%, even as the overall population grew by 14%.”
“All of this is helping to end an acute Lone Star physicians shortage, especially in rural areas. Twenty-three counties now have their first E.R. doctor, 10 their first OB-GYN. Hospitals are reinvesting the malpractice savings in scarce services like neurosurgery and neonatal units and expanding access to care. This Texas success has opened eyes in nearby Oklahoma, where even Democrats have been forced to agree to some legal reforms.”
Source: “Loser Pays, Everyone Wins, Texas pushes the British rule on tort reform,” Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2010
Richard L. Reece, MD, is pathologist, editor, author, speaker, innovator, and believer in abilities of practicing doctors and their patients to control and improve their health destinies through innovation. He is author of eleven books. Dr. Reece posts frequently at his blog, Medinnovation.