Gov. Rick Perry today was joined by the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and members of the medical community to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the passage of landmark medical liability reform in Texas.
“Ten years ago, Texas doctors were faced with an awful choice: stop providing critical services their patients desperately needed, shut down their practice altogether, or leave the state,” Gov. Perry said. “The best thing we can say about tort reform in Texas is also the most basic thing: It’s made people’s lives better. Since Proposition 12 passed 10 years ago, Texas has added more than 30,000 doctors with significant gains in communities that had been traditionally medically underserved. Many of the same lawsuit reforms we passed also freed entrepreneurs and employers across our state to worry less about lawsuit abuse, and invest fewer resources in defending them.”
Prior to tort reform in Texas, the medical community faced a frustrating and inefficient legal system. Rising costs made it difficult for physicians and hospitals to attain the insurance coverage necessary to practice. Burdened with skyrocketing insurance rates, good doctors were forced to cut back on high-risk and life-saving care or limit their practices. In the years preceding lawsuit reform, Texas licensed the fewest number of new physicians in a decade, liability claims against doctors occurred at nearly twice the national average, and hospitals saw liability costs rising by as much as 50 percent in a single year.
Authorized by Texas voters in 2003, Proposition 12 was a constitutional amendment aimed at reducing medical malpractice lawsuits and making the state’s court system more efficient and fair. These sweeping reforms marked the beginning of a return to balance for the medical liability system.
As a result, claims and lawsuits in most Texas counties have been cut in half. Since 2003, all major physician liability carriers have cut their rates by more than 30 percent and doctors have received a 46 percent average reduction in liability premiums, a total of $1.9 billion across the state. Hospitals are also collectively saving approximately $100 million per year in liability premiums, allowing for investments in new technology, patient care and charity care.
Texas has received a record number of medical license applications this year. Physician growth has increased faster than population growth, with the ranks of high-risk specialists growing more than twice as fast as the population, pediatric sub-specialists growing 10 times faster than the population, and the number of geriatricians more than doubling. Additionally, since 2003, 24 rural counties added at least one general surgeon, 35 rural counties added at least one obstetrician, and 39 rural counties added their first emergency medicine physician. The number of rural obstetricians has also grown nearly three times faster than the state’s rural population.