Texas Malpractice Caps Blasted, Defended
"When proponents argued for a cap it was a discussion about stabilizing insurance rates paid by healthcare providers and attracting new doctors to the state, and that has been overwhelmingly successful," Opelt says. "Never was it stated that passing these reforms would reduce the health insurance premiums for consumers."
According to the Public Citizen report, since Texas instituted its liability limits:
- Per-enrollee Medicare spending has risen 13% faster than the national average;
- Medicare spending specifically for outpatient services has risen 31% faster than the national average;
- Medicare diagnostic testing expenditures have risen 26% faster than the national average;
- Premiums for private health insurance have risen faster (52%) than the national average (50%);
- The percentage of Texans who lack health insurance has risen to 25%, solidifying the state's dubious distinction of having the highest uninsured rate in the country;
- The per capita increase in the number of doctors practicing has slowed to less than half its rate in the years leading up to the caps;
- The per capita number of primary care physicians practicing in Texas has remained flat, compared to a sharp increase in the years leading up to the caps; and
- The prevalence of physicians in non-metropolitan areas has declined.
Opelt says he cannot repudiate every statistic highlighted in the study, but he says he doesn't have to, because most of the claims – for example, rising Medicare costs, or the percentage of Texans who are uninsured -- have nothing to do with medical malpractice.
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