He asserts, however, that any claims that Texas has seen a decline in the numbers of practicing physicians since 2003 are simply untrue. "By any objective measurement what we have seen is the end of the exodus of doctors from our state. We have seen a substantial increase in doctors coming to Texas and practicing, especially in the high-risk fields. What that means is more care for more people and closer to their homes. That is not reflected in their study," he says.
Opelt says the report also gives a false impression that patients' rights to legal redress have been gutted in Texas when, in fact, only non-economic damages have been capped.
"Even with these new reforms in place one could still receive a multimillion dollar judgment," he says. "What it has done is reduced the number of lawsuits filed in this state. It has reduced the number of outlier awards. It has allowed doctors hospitals and nursing homes to find and afford liability coverage so they can treat patients."
Opelt also objected to the study's contention that Texas physicians face less accountability for errors since the imposition of the caps.
"There is nothing in the peer review studies that draw a correlation between lawsuits or the threat of lawsuits to the improved quality of care," he said. "Since the passage of reforms we have seen some significant improvements in Texas, but they are not totally related to the cap. Although it can be stated that dollars that used to go to lawyers and lawsuits are now going to charity care and patient care."