Monday August 1, 10:00 am ET
LUBBOCK, Texas, Aug. 1 /PRNewswire/
The Texas Tech Law Review today released a comprehensive overview of lawsuit reform measures passed in 2003.
The 357-page article, the culmination of a year of review and written by six leading Texas attorneys, is designed to serve as the "authoritative word" or a "legislative intent roadmap" on the landmark liability reforms passed by lawmakers in 2003 and approved by voters that same year.
"Two years ago, Texas lawmakers passed arguably the most expansive rewrite of the state’s civil justice laws since the adoption of the Texas constitution 140 years ago," said Walter Huffman, Dean of the Texas Tech University School of Law. "The article in today’s Texas Tech Law Review is intended as an objective research tool on these landmark reforms — a roadmap to what lawmakers intended to enact. This scholarly article may serve as a guide for attorneys, as well as judges at all levels, to understand and properly apply the hundreds of new laws."
The Tech law review article — "House Bill 4 and Proposition 12: An Analysis with Legislative History" — captures what the Legislature did and did not intend in the wording of the reform legislation. The review includes more than 1,850 footnotes.
They are not, by the way, wishy-washy about whether liability reform was helpful for physicians. It is, I agree, still too soon to determine the full impact on patients. However, since doctors and patients should be working together on health, what’s good for one is very likely good for another (something our adversarial legally-trained folks cannot accept).
Some of the main findings of the panel are listed at the bottom of the article, and I’ll put them in the extended entry.
EARLY TEXAS TORT REFORM BENEFITS
* In 2003, the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 4, a comprehensive
and far-reaching liability reform bill, including limits on non
economic damages in health care lawsuits. Texas voters affirmed the
cap when they approved Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that
made clear the Legislature had the authority to set caps in medical
liability lawsuits. The early returns are promising. Access to health
care is up, professional liability insurance premiums are stable or
down, and competition in the health care liability market is
* Shortly after the passage of House Bill 4 and Proposition 12, Texas
Medical Liability Trust (TMLT), the largest physician liability
insurer in Texas, reduced premiums 12 percent. In September 2004, TMLT
announced a second rate cut of five percent. The total rate reduction
of 16.4 percent represents a $34 million rate savings for Texas
physicians. Subsequently, the next four largest insurers in the Texas
medical liability market cut rates, providing Texas doctors with an
additional $16 million in rate relief. (Texas Alliance For Patient
* For the first time in years, Texas physicians can competitively shop
for medical liability policies. In 1999, 17 licensed companies were
writing new professional liability policies in Texas. In a turbulent
market, that number dwindled to four in 2002. Since the passage of
Proposition 12, 22 new carriers, including three admitted carriers,
have begun selling malpractice insurance in Texas or will do so soon.
(Texas Department of Insurance).
* Since then, Texas has seen a steady decline in the number of
physicians enrolled in the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the
state pool of last resort (Joint Underwriting Association).
* Before the passage of major reforms, the ranks of Texas internists,
emergency care physicians, orthopedic and neurosurgeons were flat or
on the decline. Since then, their numbers have grown dramatically.
(Texas State Board of Medical Examiners).
* Since May 2003, more than 3,000 new doctors have established practice
in Texas; many of them serving in high-risk specialties and in
medically underserved regions of the state. Some counties, such as
Cameron County along the Texas/Mexico border, are experiencing
unprecedented success in physician recruitment. (Texas Alliance For
* Texas hospitals experienced, on average, a 54 percent liability
insurance rate hike in 2003. Last year, those same hospitals saw their
liability costs slashed 17 percent. Many Texas hospitals are
reinvesting their liability savings into patient services and
expanding their level of charity care. (Texas Hospital Association).
* The Catholic-owned Christus Health System reported it would likely
save $21 million on liability insurance in 2005 among the 48 Texas
hospitals it owns or manages. "The primary factor in that is tort
reform," said Randy Finley, Christus' director of risk management.
"It's not the only factor, but it's the primary factor." (The Dallas
Morning News, August 23, 2004).
* Brad Gahm, general counsel at Baylor Health Care System, said
recruiting physicians in high-risk specialties was difficult prior to
Proposition 12. "We couldn't get neurosurgeons to practice at downtown
Baylor because of the risk of providing the trauma services," he said.
Gahm credits medical liability reform for improvements in physician
recruitment. In the first year since reforms were enacted, the Baylor
network added to its staff three neurosurgeons and a physician who
treats women with high-risk pregnancies.
* Corpus Christi was at the epicenter of the state's health care lawsuit
abuse crisis. Thanks to the passage of medical liability reforms, the
city has emerged as perhaps the most reinvigorated medical community
in Texas. In the year after reforms were passed, Corpus Christi has
added 47 new physicians. That is a stark contrast to the 40 physicians
that were lost in the five years prior to reforms. (Corpus Christi
Caller-Times, August 29, 2004).
* After four years of searching for a neurosurgeon, the Corpus Christi
medical community was able to recruit Dr. Matthew Alexander from a
Wisconsin residency program. Dr. Alexander said if Proposition 12
hadn't passed he would not have come to Texas. (Corpus Christi
Caller-Times, August 29, 2004).
* In the 18 months prior to the passage of lawsuit reform, the Beaumont
medical community saw a net loss of 12 doctors. Since the passage of
reforms, the community has gained 21 physicians including five
anesthesiologists and 15 emergency medicine physicians. (Texas
Alliance For Patient Access).
* Lawsuit filings in most Texas counties have been cut in half since the
passage of the 2003 reforms (Texas Alliance For Patient Access).
SOURCE: Texas Alliance For Patient Access
Jon Opelt, Executive Director
The Texas Alliance For Patient Access is a statewide coalition of doctors,
hospitals, nursing homes and physician liability insurers dedicated to
improving the availability and affordability of healthcare liability