Liability Reform Let Fredericksburg Doctors Deliver Babies Again

Testimony by David Cantu, MD

The House Judiciary and Jurisprudence Committee  
House Bill 719

March 28, 2017

Good afternoon. My name is Dr. David Cantu. I am a small-town doctor and have practiced in Fredericksburg since 1994. I grew up in Laredo. Both of my parents were doctors. I followed my dad into the field of obstetrics. 

In the big city, everyone’s a specialist. In a small-town, you do it all. And that’s what I wanted. I was an obstetrician and provided a full spectrum of family medicine. When I came to Fredericksburg, most of the babies were delivered by family physicians. We had a shortage of anesthesiologists, so I did the epidural anesthesia, delivered the baby, and did follow-up pediatric care at the hospital.

Most of my patients were on Medicaid, and they drove a great distance to see me. Expecting mothers came to me from Mason, Comfort, Kerrville, and Junction. They drove from Senora and London. Yes, you can drive to Fredericksburg from London, Texas. Some drove 90 miles from Rocksprings, and a few made the 260-mile trip from Fort Stockton.

They came to me, in part, because I was the only obstetrician in Fredericksburg fluent in Spanish who catered to Spanish-speaking patients. Sixty to 70 percent of my patients were Hispanic. They felt most comfortable in conversing with someone who spoke their first language.

Collectively, my office partner, Dr. Yvonne Haug, and I were delivering about 300 babies a year. In the early 2000s, the cost of liability coverage soared. By 2003, we could no longer afford the insurance premiums. It was costing us out-of-pocket to deliver babies.

Here we were: Practicing is Gillespie County, with some of the most attractive liability rates in the state, and we simply could not afford to continue delivering babies. So, we stopped. 

In June 2003, the legislature passed a damage cap, and voters approved that damage cap a few months thereafter. In October of that year, we decided to return to obstetrical practice. We proudly ran an ad in the local paper that read: “We’re Back! Thanks to the voters who passed Proposition 12, we are reopening our obstetrical practice!”

I went into medicine to do what I loved to do. But the liability crisis forced my partner and me to stop delivering babies. Because of reform, we could reopen our obstetrical practice. 

I feel that if Texas were to raise the cap, premiums would rise. And eventually, we would return to the liability problems that previously jeopardized obstetrical care in Gillespie County.

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Last Updated On

April 04, 2017