Texas Patients See Surge in Access to Care

Faced with a harsh reality of too few physicians just twelve years ago, patients across the state of Texas now have greater health care options amidst a surge of newly licensed practitioners.

Exceeding 4,000 newly licensed physicians for the first time in history, the Texas Medical Board licensed a record 4,295 new doctors last year, up 7.5 percent from last year’s record of 3,994.

“Twelve years since the passage of our historic 2003 medical liability reforms, we continue to attract new physicians to Texas in record numbers,” said Howard Marcus, M.D, internist and chairman of Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “I don’t at all find that to be a coincidence.”

Liability reform has “reversed the epidemic of lawsuit abuse and, in turn, provided sick and injured Texans with better access to lifesaving care,” Dr. Marcus said.

The increase in physicians allows patients in rural counties, who previously had little or no choice in health care services – and for some specialties, no services at all – greater access to affordable care.

To read the press release from the Texas Alliance for Patient Access on the increase in licensed physicians, click here.

Sunshine State’s Lack of Liability Laws Cloud Health Care System, Economy

With a tough liability climate causing clouds over the otherwise sunny state of Florida, physicians face an increase in lawsuits and escalating liability premiums just as patients are left with fewer options for quality care.

Writing on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and Florida Chamber of Commerce, Lisa Rickard and Mark Wilson outline the problems that could prevent Florida from creating the two million jobs that will be necessary over the next 15 years.

Rickard and Wilson cite the state’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the million dollar limit on non-economic damages as a driver of “runaway medical malpractice insurance costs for doctors” that influences physicians to practice expensive defensive medicine.

With personal injury lawyers also working behind the scenes to support like-minded judges and legislators, legal loopholes such as “bad faith” lawsuits allow for two lawsuits for every alleged adverse medical outcome – one against the defendant, and a second against the defendant’s insurance company.

“Even with one of the fastest job-creating records in the country, Florida must still create more than 2 million jobs over the next 15 years,” Rickard and Wilson state. “And a broken lawsuit system threatens this.”

To read their opinion piece in support of creating a sunny climate for Florida patients and physicians alike, click here.

New York Times Opinion Page: “A Flawed Medical Malpractice System”

Letters from concerned patients, physicians, and medical organizations were highlighted on the New York Times opinion pages earlier this month, detailing the impact that New York’s expensive and inefficient liability system has on access to care. The letters came in response to an op-ed piece calling for legislative changes that would increase the frequency of lawsuits in the Empire State.

“Despite scoring high on various quality indicators, New York’s hospitals and doctors have among the highest medical malpractice costs in the United States,” write Kenneth Raske and Joseph Maldonado, presidents of the Greater New York Hospital Association and Medical Society of the State of New York, respectively. “Many doctors logically conclude that the state is simply too hostile an environment to practice medicine,” leaving patients without the critical care they need.

An attorney with a 30-year history of defending physicians in medical liability cases, Barry Viuker writes that the op-ed’s claim that that “there are few medical malpractice lawsuits and that those few are meritorious and result in awards that ‘are generally modest,’” simply contradicted what years of experience told him about the medical liability system in New York.

In addition, the high number of lawsuits keeps physicians occupied in the courtroom for months and even years, even though as Dr. Ron Alterman, chief of the Division of Neurosurgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center states, “more than 60 percent of the suits that are filed are ultimately abandoned, and that 75 percent of cases that go to trial result in judgments for the doctor or hospital.”

“These facts demonstrate that our current malpractice system is highly inefficient, neither protecting patients from bad doctors nor protecting doctors from specious lawsuits, the defenses of which cost our health care system hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Dr. Alterman concludes, a position that is also held by the HCLA and one we continue to seek to change through comprehensive liability reform at the federal level.

To read the letters to the editor of the New York Times in support of medical liability reform, click here.