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August 25, 2004

Texas reforms reduce malpractice costs

More evidence that tort reform, contrary to partisan claims, reduce insurance rates: Texas. The Texas legislature approved a series of medical malpractice reforms, and the Texas electorate simultaneously approved an amendment to the Texas constitution to protect the reforms from being nullified by the judiciary. The reforms took effect September 1, 2003, and have already shown results--results that will improve even more once a backlog of lawsuits filed in a rush to avoid the reforms in the summer of 2003 works its way through the system. A Texas Hospital Association study finds marked improvements in liability costs. Insurance rates for hospitals have declined 8% and 17% for fiscal 2004 and 2005; the Texas Medical Liability Trust, the state's largest medical malpractice insurer for individual doctors, reduced premiums by 12%. Christus Health, which self-insured, has saved $21 million, and will use that money to build a community clinic for the indigent in Corpus Christi. A trial lawyers' front group representative churlishly complains that "We should not be measuring the success of this on whether hospitals are making more money."

A note on press coverage: the Texas Medical Association titled a press release on its study "Texas Health Care Liability Reform Beginning to Bear Fruit." This was translated by the Houston Chronicle into the Aug. 24 headline "Tort reform yet to give much benefit to doctors." (Terry Maxon, "Hospitals finding healthy savings", Dallas Morning News, Aug. 22).

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Medicine and Law



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