Since 2003, Texas has enforced a strict cap on damages awarded through medical malpractice cases. Texas is one example of how tort reforms hurt the public and strengthen the insurance industry. A recent report on the changes that have occurred in post-reform Texas suggests that tort reform is a failure.
Today, medical malpractice damages in Texas and several other states are capped at $250,000 for physicians and at $250,000 for hospitals. The cap has not changed since restrictions on jury awards and frivolous lawsuits were implemented in 2003. The only favorable effects were a 50 percent decrease in the malpractice premiums that physicians pay and a 70 percent decrease in payments issued by insurance companies. Texas still has a higher-than-average number of malpractice claims per resident.
Doctors scared out of medical practice?
When Governor Rick Perry and tort reform proponents suggested these changes, they used fear tactics. Campaign pamphlets posted in public areas stated that 150 rural counties had no obstetrician. Today, these counties still do not have local physicians who can deliver babies. After the reform, statistics that were published nationally continued to mislead the public.
For a brief time, it appeared that more physicians were applying for medical licenses, but the statistical analysis was inaccurate. These numbers failed to account for new graduates, retiring physicians, an influx of Katrina refugees and a general population increase. When these statistics are compared to the nation, post-reform Texas is attracting fewer physicians than most states. Furthermore, medical malpractice attorneys are accepting fewer cases because the returns on countless hours of work are not worthwhile.
Statistics on the performance of tort reforms in Texas show that consumers do not benefit from lower healthcare costs. Once the numbers are reviewed, it's apparent that tort reform laws in California, Texas and other states put those who have been injured by incompetent medical care at a significant disadvantage.