Texas News

No evidence that a Texas medical malpractice “crisis” ever existed

According to a new study that analyzed 15-years worth of closed claim data maintained by the Texas Department of Insurance, despite the claims by the American Medical Association and certain legislators that blamed “frivolous” lawsuits on the medical malpractice “crisis”, there is no evidence that a crisis state existed.

Last session, lawmakers enacted tort reform changes that reduced access to and capped medical malpractice awards because of claims that plaintiffs and money hungry lawyers had created skyrocketing insurance rates. The researchers found that despite the reform changes medical malpractice insurance rates have continued to increase 135 percent from 1999 to 2003.

The increases are not because of the number of medical malpractice claims and high payouts, but because of insurance company profits. The four legal scholars from three universities involved in the groundbreaking study concluded the rise in medical malpractice insurance rates has more to do with the business aspect of insurance then it does with the civil litigation system.

The researchers discovered that the number of large claims, being over $25,000, remained constant between 1991 and 2002. Small claims actually dropped, and the amount of money paid out on claims or awarded by jury also remained constant, dropping even in some cases. The rate of claims per 100 Texas physicians dropped from 6.4 during 1990 to 1992 to 4.6 during 2000 to 2002.

Medical malpractice claims accounted for just 0.6 percent of all health care spending in 2002, according to the researchers. Texas is not the only state that has undergone legal reform because of “crisis” conditions from medical malpractice lawsuits, and other groups have accused lawmakers and the American Medical Association of inaccurately portraying the situation in order to get legislation passed.

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