Category Archives: Texas

February 2020 Newsletter

The year ahead for patients and physicians Advocating for physicians in over 60 active lawsuits, the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies has a busy year ahead in support of access to care. Brian D. Vandenberg, senior vice president and general counsel at the American Medical Association (AMA), recently outlined the priorities for 2020 in an interview with American Medical News. On the docket for the AMA is the rise in hybrid medical liability lawsuits. Vandenberg explains, “Hybrid liability suits attempt to disregard medical malpractice liability caps by conflating distinct legal theories—an end-run around legislative tort reform.” Vandenberg highlights these attempts as “disingenuous” ways to overcome limits on noneconomic damages. “We’ll continue to advocate for meaningful tort reform, and will continue to challenge and file amicus briefs in abusive hybrid lawsuits.” He also emphasized the importance of protecting the patient-physician relationship and the continued ability for open and honest discussions about health care recommendations. When asked about what was at stake in several of their key legal priorities in 2020, Vandenberg answered, “Access and trust. It’s really that simple.” To read the full interview on how the Litigation Center is playing a role in support of ensuring…

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New Texas doctors set record for state’s physician-to-patient ratio

SOURCE: KXAN News AUSTIN (Nexstar) — If you’re looking for a doctor in Texas, it seems you’re in luck. Texas’ physician workforce is expanding at a record-setting pace, according to the Texas Medical Association. The ratio of patient-care physicians for every 100,000 people has increased every year for a decade, new data revealed. The association reported the state’s number of newly licensed physicians bumped up 7.9% last year. Texas added 4,869 new doctors in 2019, which is 355 higher than the 2018 total of 4,514. Based on the new data, there are now nearly 190 physicians for every 100,000 Texans. “Texas is doing a great job of welcoming new physicians and making it a good environment to practice medicine and take care of people in,” said Dr. David Murdy, of Baylor Scott and White Health’s Lakeway clinic. Murdy moved to Texas in 2018 from Wisconsin. The doctor growth in Texas was spurred in 2003 by legislation that changed liability regulations, making it less likely for lawsuits against physicians and hospitals to be sued by patients. That enabling legislation was House Bill 4, the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act, paired with constitutional amendment Proposition 12. Dr. Stanley Wang, a cardiologist…

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October 2018 Newsletter

Elderly Texans among the beneficiaries of liability reform Liability reforms were a long time coming for the long-term care industry in Texas, where, prior to 2003, half the nursing homes across the state couldn’t find or afford liability insurance. Highly rated nursing homes were frequently targeted by personal injury attorneys pursuing meritless claims, driving up costs that forced them to scale back their care. Big changes came following medical liability reform legislation passed in 2003, when the nursing home industry in Texas experienced dramatic improvements in the care they were able to provide their residents – all thanks to savings from liability insurance premiums. “Texas tort reform saved our organization and the residents that we serve,” said Alan Hale, CEO of Manor Park, a non-profit elderly care facility in west Texas. Now, Texas has 50 percent fewer cases against nursing homes than the national average – evidence that reforms are making an impact. Facilities throughout the state, including Manor Park and another non-profit, Morningside Ministries, have credited liability reforms with allowing them to invest resources in recruiting care staff and nurses, training younger people for the various careers in long-term and elderly care, and improving the homes that serve and…

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Tort reform saved Texas nursing homes

SOURCE: San Antonio Express-News – https://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/commentary/article/Tort-reform-saved-Texas-nursing-homes-13267186.php Fifteen years ago, Texas nursing home care was in a liability insurance crisis that threatened to close some of the state’s best facilities. The frequency of nursing home lawsuits in Texas was the second highest nationally. Half of the nursing homes in the state had gone bare — meaning they carried no liability insurance. Not that they didn’t want it. They couldn’t find or afford it. In 2003, the Texas Legislature established a balanced approach to protecting quality care for aging Texans through its tort reform bill. As a result of these changes, Texas nursing homes have spent less on insurance and more on improving quality, hiring and retaining staff, and planning improvements for the care of aging Texans. Back in 2002, Manor Park, a not-for-profit in West Texas was paying $150,000 a year for a $1 million insurance policy. A year later, it was quoted $465,000 for the same coverage. The board fully realized that the facility was one broken hip away from bankruptcy. This facility was rated highly by state and national agencies, and had a clean record regarding lawsuits. Alan Hale, CEO of Manor Park, says without equivocation, “Texas tort reform…

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September 2018 Newsletter

Texas hold ‘em: 15 years since reform In the 15 years since comprehensive medical liability reforms were enacted, Texas has held on to physicians – and held off those seeking to return to a time when patient access to care was at risk. Initially enacted in 2003, liability reforms have resulted in an influx of physicians, benefiting rural residents across the state. “Texas’ medical liability reforms have been nationally considered the gold standard for medical liability legislation,” said Governor Greg Abbott. “Tort reform has significantly reduced lawsuits and liability costs in our state and contributed greatly to the increasing number of doctors practicing in Texas.” Women’s health care services have also improved, with Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA) Chairman, Dr. Howard Marcus, confirming that Texas has added more obstetricians than any state in the nation. “Because of the tort reform measures passed by the Texas Legislature in 2003, the number of Texas primary care, high-risk, and total physicians have expanded at a rate greater than population growth,” Dr. Marcus said. To read more about the work of TAPA and the 15-year liability reform milestone, click here. A physician’s perspective on jackpot justice A spine surgeon and editor-in-chief of AAOS…

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July 2018 Newsletter

Wisconsin court preserves reforms – and access to care A decision this month by Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court kept intact liability reforms that have placed reasonable limits on noneconomic damages and resulted in lower health care costs for patients and physicians. The court upheld the state’s $750,000 limit on non-economic damages while continuing to guarantee that deserving patients would receive full and unlimited compensation for past and future medical care as well as lost wages. “Today’s Court decision preserves Wisconsin’s balanced medical liability system that has been instrumental in attracting physicians to communities across Wisconsin, while providing assurance to injured patients that they will receive payment for the full amount of a jury’s award of medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic losses,” Wisconsin Hospital Association President Eric Borgerding stated. The state maintains an Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund using assessments charged to physicians, clinics, hospitals and other participants and covers all damages above their primary insurance limits. Premiums paid by physicians to the fund have been dropping since 2014, with rates falling by 34 percent in 2016, 30 percent last year and an anticipated drop of another 30 percent this year. This month’s decision comes as a reversal…

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AMA’s legal team helps protect medical liability reforms

Medical liability reform is a high state legislative priority for the AMA. Not surprisingly, then, it is also a high priority for the Litigation Center for the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies. Evidence of this is the Litigation Center’s involvement in five active tort reform-related cases before the state Supreme Courts of Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Texas. And evidence of the Litigation Center’s success is the recent Wisconsin state Supreme Court 5–2 ruling that the state’s $750,000 cap on awards for noneconomic damages did not violate the state constitution. The Wisconsin cap on noneconomic damages is one component of a three-part strategy that has stabilized the state’s medical liability environment. The three elements are: A requirement for most physicians to carry $1 million in liability coverage per occurrence and $3 million in aggregate. The Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, which is financed via assessments (based on actuarial risk) charged to physicians, clinics, hospitals and other participants and covers all damages above the primary insurance limits. The $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages. Many caps, few guarantees Wisconsin and 30 other states have a cap on noneconomic damages. But the Dairy State is one of just a…

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June 2018 Newsletter

Liability reform empowers physicians to avoid defensive medicine While evidence strongly suggests that the potential for liability lawsuits results in treatments and tests that may not be otherwise necessary, new data shows that medical liability reform may be empowering physicians to go on the offensive together with their patients. A newly published analysis compared diagnosis and treatment patterns in patients suspected of having coronary artery disease between states where liability reforms have been adopted and states without non-economic damage limits in place. The study included 36,647 physicians in nine states with reasonable limits adopted between 2003 and 2005, and 39,154 in states that had not taken any action to utilize limits on non-economic damages to rein in lawsuits. Physicians in states with reasonable liability limits were less prone to rely on angiography as a first diagnostic test and more likely to order noninvasive stress testing, the report found. In addition, fewer patients were referred for angiography following initial stress testing. These physicians also performed fewer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures after ischemic evaluation, with indications that these patients were offered medical therapy as an alternative. “Our study suggests that physicians who face lower malpractice risk may be less concerned with…

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Op-ed urges Arkansans to make informed choices on liability ballot measure

In 1987 I had a baby girl in Houston, Texas. She was born a month early, and despite complications, she was delivered at a little over five pounds. We were lucky at that time because we lived in Houston, home of one of the greatest medical centers in the world. But Texas had a problem. Texas had a doctor shortage, especially in high-risk services such as labor and delivery, neurosurgery and trauma. More than 150 counties had no local obstetrics care, and services were sometimes more than 100 miles away. Physicians were leaving Texas for states that were less litigious or they were quitting medical practice altogether. By 2003 the exodus of doctors was such a crisis the state of Texas initiated, and passed, tort reform to rein in the cost of practicing medicine. The landmark reforms created an almost immediate turnaround, starting with pediatric subspecialties increasing 300 percent in the following 10 years. Emergency doctors in rural areas increased 64 percent, more than 10 times the growth in those areas. Thirty-five rural counties added at least one OB-GYN, almost half of which never had one. You can find similar stories in more than 30 states that have implemented tort…

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13-Years Post-Liability Reform, Texas Hits Another Record in New Physician Applications

Texas continues to be an attractive place to practice medicine. The state’s medical board finished is fiscal year last month having received a record number of new physician applications. Some 5,544 new applications were received, up 3% from the previous year’s record 5,377 applicants. Texas licensed 4,093 new physicians for the year. That figure is down 202 from the previous year but still the second highest on record. “We continue to trend in the right direction, said Austin internist Howard Marcus, MD, chairman of Texas Alliance For Patient Access, “yet there remains a strong demand for health care workers.” More than twice as many physician applications were received this year than at the height of the state’s liability crisis 13 years ago. Thirteen years ago this month Texas voters approved Proposition 12. The constitutional amendment affirmed the Legislature’s authority to set damage caps for hard-to-quantify pain-and-suffering-type awards in health care lawsuits. Within months the epidemic of lawsuit abuse was reversed and the exodus of physicians stopped; especially those practicing in the emergency department, said Marcus. “One hundred eighteen Texas counties have seen a net gain in emergency medicine physicians since the passage of reforms. That includes 53 counties that previously…

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