Texas Tort Reform Not All That is Cracked Up To Be…
December 9, 2009
We see results like this all the time, yet the mythical Tort Reform as the answer to all ills continues to be proffered to the public by all those who are either miss-informed or are only looking out for the profit and interests of Insurance Industry. I particularly like the Texas results since the idea that all is well in Texas has been publicized–the problem with the publicity given to Texas and its supposed success resulting from the passage of Tort Reform is that it has resulted in less lawsuits–The US Chamber of Commerce seem to be only concerned with that fact–however, the US Chamber of Commerce does not seem to be concerned with the consumers who have been injured not being able to get compensation from the insurance company for their injuries… That concern has been passed along to us the tax payer because if a person who has been handicapped as a result of medical malpractice is not able to work and to support himself, ultimately, it is the tax payer who will be left holding the bag–and that seems to be the MO of the Right Wing and Conservative Movement.
The health care debate drones on in the Senate. The first words out of the mouth of many conservative legislators against the proposed health legislation are “Tort Reform.” Medical Malpractice Liability Reform has been a poster child for opponents to overall reform.
The theory is that if medical malpractice premiums decline for doctors and other providers, those savings will be passed on to patients. It hopes that limitations on liability and reductions in malpractice premiums will translate to physicians dropping the practice of defensive medicine.
In fact, more than half of the states have already implemented “tort reform” on the state level. If the Conservative theory holds water, examination of expenditures data should show a positive result.
Texas, in particular, has been cited as a state which has seen drops in malpractice premiums and new doctors moving into the region as “tort reform” has taken hold after implementation in 2006.
Documented results on health expenditures paid run several years in arrears, but according to analysts at the Department of Health and Human Services, it would be expected they run parallel to more readily available Medicare usage statistics. Seven of the top twenty most costly metropolitan areas to get health care are in Texas.
Nineteen most expensive Medicare areas have tort reform:
The nineteen most expensive Medicare service areas are Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. In each state, medical malpractice liability reform has passed the state legislature and been signed into law.
To be fair, there are wide variances in premiums charged by malpractice insurance companies for similar policies in the same medical specialty across the country. These can be as high as 400-500 percent. Certainly, this functions as disincentive for physicians to provide certain services in high premium states. Causation of the variations has more to do with a lack of competition in certain jurisdictions than by specific awards made.
Physicans afraid of litigation
Doctors, in particular, are terrified of being sued. Although higher than average malpractice premiums contribute to this fear, the premiums and awards combined contribute to less than 2 percent of overall medical expense. Malpractice premium relief alone does not seem deter the practice of costly defensive medicine.