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Tort Reform – The False Choice

As the legislature reconvenes in Austin, Texas Watch released a new study called THE FALSE CHOICE: DOCTORS OR ACCOUNTABILITY. The main premise of the study is that Texans were provided a false choice between access to health care and protecting patient rights when presented with tort reform’s Prop 12 in 2003.  The study makes three main findings:

  1. Prop 12 hasn’t increased access to health care.  Prior to the passage of Prop 12, the rate of new doctors in the state was increasing.  Since 2003, the rate of growth (for actual practicing physicians) is slower than the increase in the pre-Prop 12 years.  In addition, every underserved region of Texas shows slower growth than the pre-Prop 12 years.
  2. Prop 12 hasn’t provided any meaningful relief in malpractice insurance rates.  Market-wide, premiums have fallen about 13.5%.  But when compared with the pre-Prop 12 run-up in rates of up to 147%, the decrease is not substantial.  This is particularly true when considering many of the largest insurers requested rate increases greater than the 13.5% decrease in the months immediately following the passage of Prop 12.
  3. Prop 12 hasn’t helped Texas consumers.  The cost of health care continues to skyrocket, and numerous Texans injured by egregious conduct of negligent medical providers are left without a way to recover for their injuries.

It is unlikely that Texas consumers will find any relief in this legislative session, but perhaps the Texas Watch findings can be a lesson to other states (and the federal government) considering additional tort reform litigation.

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