September 2007 MedBytes: Tort Reform

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September marks the four-year anniversary of the enactment of the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 and the passage of Proposition 12, an amendment to the Texas Constitution that caps noneconomic damages in health care liability cases. Physicians can stay abreast of efforts to preserve tort reform by frequenting the Web sites below.

Texas   Medical Association
The Texas Medical Association was instrumental in organizing grassroots efforts among physicians to pass Proposition 12 in 2003. Today, the association continues to fight to preserve the reforms achieved through landmark legislation. The  Professional Liability Insurance Reform section of TMA's Web site, www.texmed.org , features a Proposition 12 recap, as well as articles from influential leaders such as Donald Patrick, MD, executive director of the Texas Medical Board, and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. From the site's home page, select Governmental Affairs from the menu on the left, and click on Professional Liability Insurance Reform. You can share the history of Texas' tort reform victory with physician groups by downloading the PowerPoint presentation in the section. And learn more about medical liability insurance premium cuts and insurance carriers in Texas.

American Medical Association
The American Medical Association is working on a federal level to limit noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits while supporting states classified as having a liability crisis. The Medical Liability Reform section of the AMA's Web site,  www.ama-assn.org , is a gold mine of resources on legislative activities, AMA policies, and national reforms. To view the Medical Liability Reform page, click on AMA Agenda from the home page, and select Advocacy Efforts. The National Legislative Activities link directs you to archives of AMA testimonies and letters to Congress. The State Legislative Activities link will point you toward state laws and legislative initiatives relating to tort reforms. If you're an AMA member, you'll have access to all of the information in this section of the site. Nonmembers have limited access.

American Tort Reform Association
Founded in 1986 by the American Medical Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is made up of state-based liability reform coalitions backed by 135,000 grassroots supporters. The national organization strives to make America's civil justice system more fair, predictable, and efficient. The ATRA Web site, www.atra.org , presents its contents with a well-organized menu on the left side of the screen. Read about the tort reform triumphs of Texas and other states in the Tort Reform Works section, and become familiar with ATRA's legislative agenda by clicking on Issues. One of the more unique components of the site can be accessed by clicking on Judicial Hellholes. You'll be directed to downloadable PDF annual reports on America's most unfair jurisdictions in which to be sued.

Doctors for Medical Liability Reform
Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR) is a coalition of 230,000 practicing medical specialists committed to protecting patients' access to health care by supporting federal legislation that will reform the medical liability system. Protect Patients Now,  www.protectpatientsnow.org , is a DMLR project to improve the medical liability landscape for physicians, enabling them to continue practicing medicine. The color-coded menu on the left side of the screen makes navigating the site easy. Click on Multimedia to view a mini-documentary, print advertising, TV newsmagazines, radio tours and news releases, and downloads. Learn more about tort reform in Texas by clicking on "Texas: A Miracle in the Making" at the bottom of the home page. The Physicians link on the menu takes you to an order form for a free Patient Outreach Kit with poster, brochure, petition postcard, and button.

Texas   Alliance for Patient Access
The Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA), created in 2003, is a coalition of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health care professionals, and medical liability insurers working to improve access to health care by passing meaningful and sustainable medical liability reforms. TAPA's Web site,  www.tapa.info , is easy to follow, with tabs at the top of the home page outlining The Problem, Legislative Solution, Bills We Oppose, Recently Passed Lawsuit Reforms, Prop 12, and Improving Access to Care. For a virtual twist to the Web site's content, click on the Video Clips tab to view TV news stories about tort reform. Stay up to date on medical liability reform press coverage by visiting the online Newsroom.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, e-mail Crystal Conde . Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.

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