November 7, 2011

Wrong again

Texas majority Republican legislature in 2003 passed tort reforms severely restricting medical malpractice judgements. The argument was that doctors were leaving the state in droves due to the enormous settlements and resulting high medical malpractice insurance premiums.

Now, just a few years later, those same proponents are lauding the fact that doctors are returning to the state and with lower insurance premiums, medical costs are coming down.

Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry says, "In Texas, comprehensive medical liability reform has improved access to medical care, particularly in underserved areas, restored balance to the Texas judicial system, keeping doctors in the exam room instead of the courtroom, and has removed a large threat to job creation and economic growth that had been created by excessive litigation."

Trouble is that isn't completely true. In fact, the conservative-libertarian Cato Institute finds the opposite to be true. Cato says that tort reform has potentially resulted in patient harm, done nothing to improve access to medical care nor anything to reduce costs.

In a white paper released this week, Cato researchers conclude that caps on medical malpractice damages are actually bad for patients because they remove incentives for medical liability insurers and physicians to reduce risk associated with the practice of medicine. 

Unsurprisingly, the AMA and the right wingers in the Texas Legislature are having a cow over this report, but considering the number of times that wing has gloated over some report or another issued by Cato, their whining now rings rather disingenuous.