Tort Reform and Health Care

Joseph Nixon details the impact of recent tort reform legislation in Texas on the quality of health care in that state — not to mention the large number of doctors wanting to move into the state.

The result is an influx of doctors so great that recently the State Board of Medical Examiners couldn’t process all the new medical-license applications quickly enough. The board faced a backlog of 3,000 applications. To handle the extra workload, the legislature rushed through an emergency appropriation last year.

Now many of the newly arriving doctors are heading to rural or underserved parts of the state. Four new anesthesiologists have headed to Beaumont, for example. Meanwhile, San Antonio has experienced a 52% growth in the number of new doctors. . . .

This has allowed doctors and hospitals to cut costs and even increase the resources devoted to charity care. Take Christus Health, a nonprofit Catholic health system across the state. Thanks to tort reform, over the past four years Christus saved $100 million that it otherwise would have spent fending off bogus lawsuits or paying higher insurance premiums. Every dollar saved was reinvested in helping poor patients. . . . .

The full costs of large settlements and runaway malpractice suits may never be known. But it is clear that the costs were paid for by consumers through the increased price of goods, by pensioners through diminished stock prices, and by workers through lost jobs. Another group often overlooked is those who are priced out of health care, or who didn’t receive charity care because doctors were squeezed by tort lawyers. Frivolous lawsuits hit the uninsured the hardest.

This is making everyone happy — except the trial lawyers, of course.

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