Marilyn Tennissen Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm


EDINBURGH - Gov. Rick Perry was joined by the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and members of the medical community in Edinburgh to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the passage of landmark medical liability reform in Texas.

"Ten years ago, Texas doctors were faced with an awful choice: stop providing critical services their patients desperately needed, shut down their practice altogether, or leave the state," Perry said at the Doctor's Hospital at Renaissance. "The best thing we can say about tort reform in Texas is also the most basic thing: It's made people's lives better."

Perry said that since Proposition 12 passed 10 years ago, Texas has added more than 30,000 doctors with significant gains in communities that had been traditionally medically underserved.

"Many of the same lawsuit reforms we passed also freed entrepreneurs and employers across our state to worry less about lawsuit abuse, and invest fewer resources in defending them," he said.

Authorized by Texas voters in 2003, Proposition 12 was a constitutional amendment which supporters said was aimed at reducing medical malpractice lawsuits and making the state's court system more efficient and fair. The law took effect Sept. 1, 2003, and limited damages for pain and suffering in most malpractice cases to $250,000. Texas is one of 31 states to cap damages, though there is no limit on economic damages like reimbursement for medical bills or lost wages.

"As a result, claims and lawsuits in most Texas counties have been cut in half," Perry claims. "Since 2003, all major physician liability carriers have cut their rates by more than 30 percent and doctors have received a 46 percent average reduction in liability premiums, a total of $1.9 billion across the state. Hospitals are also collectively saving approximately $100 million per year in liability premiums, allowing for investments in new technology, patient care and charity care."

Some of the claims made by Perry were recently supported by a Department of Insurance report. The Austin American Statesman reported Sept. 1 that state Department of Insurance data shows medical malpractice claims, including lawsuits, resolved in a year fell by nearly two-thirds between 2003 and 2011 to 450. The average payout declined 22 percent to about $199,000.

Texas has received a record number of medical license applications this year, he said. Physician growth has increased faster than population growth, with the ranks of high-risk specialists growing more than twice as fast as the population, according to Perry.

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