Doctors and patients reap dividends from medical malpractice reform

The SE Texas Record Aug. 25, 2011, 3:34pm

It's getting harder and harder to make a case against medical malpractice reform.

Not that any disinterested person would try to do so, but it wasn't that long ago that State Senator Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and State Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo) introduced legislation to overturn portions of the Omnibus Tort Reform Act of 2003.

Both lawmakers, needless to say, are trial attorneys – the one special interest group disadvantaged by tort reform.

The rest of us have benefited greatly from the changes and are determined to maintain them. Thanks to reforms enacted in 1995 and 2003, Texas now enjoys an influx of doctors instead of an exodus, lower insurance rates for practitioners and patients alike, reduced maintenance costs for our judicial system, and a booming state economy.

Savings from the 1995 reforms are estimated at $2.5 billion statewide, roughly $1,000 annually for each Texas household.

Now comes word from the Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) that Lone Star State physicians will pay less for liability coverage in 2012, thanks to those reforms.

TMLT policyholders will receive an average rate decrease of almost 7 percent, and renewing policyholders will receive an 18.5 percent dividend. The combined rate reduction and dividend will save policyholders nearly $35.8 million next year.

Medical malpractice reforms have allowed TMLT to reduce rates for nine consecutive years, saving Texas physicians $745.5 million in decreased premiums over that time.

All this good news may not keep Hinojosa, Smithee, and their colleagues from trying to roll back reforms, but it will make it increasingly difficult for them to drum up support for their self-serving proposals.

What does their argument boil down to when all the platitudes are stripped away? Is it that we should roll back reforms so a handful of attorneys can get richer while millions of Texans pay more for less health care?

Good luck selling that one.

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