Texas' Tort Reform has Failed to Deliver
February 9, 2008
Choosing between greedy trial lawyers and cuddly babies was no contest for most Texas voters. Proposition 12 passed. Four years later, vast swaths of rural Texas are going begging for health care. Proposition 12, and the far-reaching changes in Texas civil law that it dragged behind it, was built on a foundation of mistruths and sketchy assumptions. The number of doctors in the state was not falling, it was steadily rising, according to Texas Medical Board data. There was little statistical evidence showing that frivolous lawsuits were a significant force driving increases in malpractice premiums. Perhaps the most insidious sleight of hand employed by Proposition 12 backers was their repeated insistence that medical malpractice insurance rates were somehow responsible for doctor shortages in rural Texas. “Women in three out of five Texas counties do not have access to obstetricians. Imagine the hardship this creates for many pregnant women in our state,” Gov. Rick Perry told a New York audience in October 2003 at the pro-tort-reform Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The problem has not been a lack of compassion among our medical community, but a lack of protection from abusive lawsuits.” The campaign’s promise, that tort reform would cause doctors to begin returning to the state’s sparsely populated regions, has now been tested for four years. It has not proven to be true.