Tort Reform: A Victory for Patient Access

    Physicians' liability insurance premiums have continued to drop since the passage of Proposition 12 and the state's landmark 2003 health care liability reforms. In the first nine months of 2005 alone, all five of Texas' largest physician insurers announced rate cuts; together, they will produce roughly $48.6 million in annualized savings for Texas physicians and greater access to care for Texas patients. Since the passage of Proposition 12, five carriers have announced double-digit rate reductions. For the first time in years, Texas physicians can competitively shop their policies. Meanwhile, lawsuit filings in most Texas counties have been cut in half since the passage of the 2003 reforms.

    As a result of these improvements, patients' access to physician services is growing.

    • Texas physicians have definitely slowed the reduction in services that had been spurred by the lawsuit abuse crisis. Some have begun to reinstate critical services.

    • Before the reforms passed, the ranks of Texas internists, emergency care physicians, and orthopedic and neurosurgeons were flat or on the decline. From May 2003 through July 2005, however, more than 3,000 new doctors established practice in Texas, many of them serving in those high-risk specialties and in medically underserved regions of the state.

    • Some cities are experiencing unprecedented success in physician recruitment. In the year after reforms were passed, Corpus Christi added 47 new physicians. That is a stark contrast to the 40 physicians the city lost in the five previous years. Similarly, Beaumont saw a net loss of 12 doctors in the 18 months prior to the passage of lawsuit reform. In the following 18 months, the community gained 21 physicians, including five anesthesiologists and 15 emergency medicine specialists. [60]

    TMA recommends:

    • Protecting the 2003 tort reforms and ensuring no new causes of action are created for physicians and other health care professionals.

    • Revisiting some of TMA's important health care liability reforms the Texas Legislature did not pass in 2003.

    • Subjecting physician testimony in health care liability cases to Texas Medical Board scrutiny because that testimony constitutes the practice of medicine.

    [60] Texas Alliance for Patient Access. Early Texas Tort Reform Benefits; July 2005


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