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 Now, Dr. Eeric Truumees covers the largest single payout to a medical liability plaintiff in recent commentary – from a physician’s perspective.
In this first article of a two-part series on the effects of a broken liability system, Dr. Truumees found himself responding to news of the $135 million verdict with a series of questions:

“Does this system work? With a payout this large, who pays? How will the verdict impact this (and other) patients? How will it and, more broadly, malpractice tort affect physicians and the healthcare system? Where is tort reform in all of this?”

The commentary compiled statistics familiar to Protect Patients Now advocates, including the fact that approximately 28 percent of cases without a demonstrated medical error lead to a payout, with a mean of $313,000; that patients who experience medical negligence only faced 50/50 odds of prevailing through a broken system; and that often, the severity of a patient’s condition following a medical procedure, regardless if negligence occurred, predicts the size of the payment to the plaintiff.
“So, we have a very slow, biased, expensive system in which even winning plaintiffs share, on average, 33 percent of awards with their attorneys (expenses are deducted from the award first, of course),” Dr. Truumees commented.
From a physician’s perspective – it’s a system that doesn’t serve the best interests of deserving patients.
Click here to read more, and stay tuned for part two on physician impact and reform in November.

Arkansas liability reform ballot measure faces uncertain future

A planned November ballot measure giving Arkansas voters the chance to improve patient access to care and end medical lawsuit abuse may be in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, a county Circuit Judge ordered the ballot measure, designated Issue 1, unconstitutional, citing that it failed to meet the state’s single-subject test and a lack of clarity about whether or not the various parts of the measure are germane to each other.
The order is now under appeal to ensure that it remains on the ballot and that votes for and against the measure are counted.
A grassroots liability reform group, Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, found through polling that about 55 percent of Arkansas voters would approve changes to the state’s liability system.
“Three large, credible polls conducted over this past year have consistently shown that 55-57 percent of Arkansas voters will vote Yes on Issue 1 when they know that voting Yes on Issue 1 protects victims from lawyers who take more than a third of a victim’s settlement and allows victims and families to receive unlimited damages for lost wages, medical bills and loss of property,” stated an Arkansans for Jobs and Justice press release.
A decision on whether or not medical liability reform will remain on the ballot this November is now under review by the state Supreme Court.
Click here here to read more about Issue 1 and the ongoing appeal.