Bills Threaten Medical Liability Reforms
By Emma Freer

At least two bills have the Texas Medical Association on notice for threats that aim to weaken Texas’ landmark 2003 medical liability reforms meant to protect access to care and patient safety.  

Meanwhile, physician legislators earned key committee appointments that could help fend off attacks on tort reform and other key parts of medicine’s agenda. TMA’s efforts also continue to get a boost from high turnout at its monthly First Tuesdays at the Capitol lobbying event.  

On the tort reform front, the two main bills of concern to TMA are: 

  • House Bill 536 by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), which would index Texas’ $250,000 constitutional cap on noneconomic damages in medical negligence lawsuits against individual physicians so that it is tied to inflation; and  
  • Senate Bill 666 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), which would weaken the Texas Medical Board (TMB) by constraining its ability to accept complaints and to render discipline. 

E. Linda Villarreal, MD, an internist in Edinburgh and past TMA president, says tort reform has been a linchpin in attracting physicians, especially those in high-risk subspecialties, to practice in Texas in record numbers – gains that the state cannot afford to lose given its rapidly growing population.  

“Every single physician at one point or another has had to refer a patient to a specialist sooner rather than later, which is why we need to protect tort reform,” she recently told Texas Medicine

TMA also has the task this session of educating members of the Texas House and Senate on the topic, the majority of whom were not around for the passage of the medical liability protections. In addition, nearly half of the members of the 2023 House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, which oversees medical liability, are new, according to an analysis by the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, of which TMA is a member. 

TMA Vice President of Public Affairs Clayton Stewart says it’s also critical to have a strong and fair medical board, which provides the highest level of protection for patients and the profession. TMA is scheduled to testify in support of TMB’s request for additional funding in the state’s 2024-25 biennial budget at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Feb. 15. The board in recent years has handled record numbers of new licenses as physicians continue to flock to Texas. 

On Senate Finance and other committees, recent appointments “put friends of medicine in key positions,” Mr.  Stewart said. 

In the upper chamber:  

  • Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels), will chair the Nominations Committee, serve as vice chair of the Education Committee, and serve on the Business & Commerce and Finance committees.  
  • Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), will chair the Business & Commerce Committee and serve on the Finance and State Affairs committees.  

In the House:  

  • Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), will chair the Appropriations Committee and serve on the Select Committee on Health Care Reform.  
  • Newly elected Rep. Suleman Lalani, MD (D-Sugar Land), will serve on the Higher Education, Natural Resources, and Resolutions Calendars committees.  
  • Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), will chair the Insurance Committee and serve on the Public Health Committee and Select Committee on Health Care Reform. 

On Feb. 7, Representative Oliverson attended TMA’s first in-person First Tuesdays event since 2019, the focus of which was scope of practice. More than 130 physicians, medical students, and TMA Alliance members joined, 25% of whom were first-time participants.  

Don’t miss out on the next event on March 7. Sign up.

Last Updated On

February 15, 2023

Originally Published On

February 15, 2023

Emma Freer


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Emma Freer is a reporter for Texas Medicine. She previously worked in local news, covering city politics, economic development, and public health. A native Clevelander, she graduated from Columbia Journalism School and the University of St. Andrews.

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