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Texas Malpractice Caps Blasted, Defended

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 14, 2011

Medical liability caps enacted in Texas in 2003 have not reduced rising medical costs in the Lone Star State, and expose as false claims that malpractice expenses are a key driver for medical inflation, according to a study from Public Citizen.

"Despite the sales campaign to promote Texas as an exhibit of the merits of limiting doctors' liability for mistakes, the real-world data tell the opposite story," Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division and author of the report, said in a media release. "Healthcare in Texas has become more expensive and less accessible since the state's malpractice caps took effect."

Public Citizen's report -- A Failed Experiment: Health Care in Texas Has Worsened in Key Respects Since State Instituted Liability Caps in 2003 -- analyzes the costs and availability of healthcare since Texas imposed the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. The report says that malpractice litigation has been cut in half, but Medicare spending has soared.

"This contradicts the 'defensive medicine' theory, which holds that fear of litigation is to blame for stark increases healthcare costs. Also, since the caps were instituted in Texas, health insurance costs have outpaced the national average and the percentage of residents lacking health insurance has risen,'" the report says.

However, Jon Opelt, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, an advocacy group for malpractice reforms whose members include the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Hospital Association, said in an interview with HealthLeaders that the Public Citizen report is fundamentally flawed, and that it misstates the original intent of the malpractice reforms.

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2 comments on "Texas Malpractice Caps Blasted, Defended"


maria (4/9/2012 at 12:53 PM)
Now hospitals and physicians misdiagnose patients continuously, abuse older patients with procedures that are completely unnecessary. An older patient goes to the hospital for a bacterial infection and his treatment is so lacking that he is thrown into renal failure and of course, every thing is set up for dialysis. The amount of elderly patients on dialysis is staggering. There is a waiting list for chairs at the dialysis centers. It reminds me of what was happening in the 80s when doctors were giving hysterectomies to women as young as mid thirties. Now is dialysis for the elderly. Somebody should look into this and do something about. It is a real shame what is happening in the US.

CJ (10/14/2011 at 3:39 PM)
This is the problem: Unsubstantiated Facts. That's how the malpractice law was passed in the first place and it looks like it continues with this two page quote from Jon Opelt. TexPac, Texas Medial Association and Texas Alliance for Patient Access (nice company name, Jon. Maybe you should consider changing it to Texas Alliance for Higher Physician Incomes) built their entire malpractice campaign in 2003 on assumptions with no real hard data to back it up, and everyone bought what they were selling. Doctors fleeing Texas! (oh no!) No more OBGYNs to deliver babies! (But we love babies!) Many good things came out of the malpractice reform and one of those is a clearer process for bring suit against a possibly negligent physician. Malpractice rates were outrageous at the time, it's true. But the tactics they used to sell the malpractice reform bill were fear-based, dirty and manipulative. The Texas Medical Association and Texas Hospital Association should be ashamed for creating false fears in voters to get a law passed that, basically, simply puts more money in the physicians' pockets and offers nothing in return for Texas patients.