Another Report on Lack of Tort Reform Effects in Texas

In the midst of the presidential election, a few hot-button political issues are raised again and again. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have noticed that health care issues are again near the top of the list, often couched in terms of the good (or bad) of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Of course, Obamacare has various components which seek both to control medical costs as well as open coverage to more and more community members. Even though presidential nominee Mitt Romney passed a similar measure while Governor of Massachusetts, he has run in opposition to the President’s legislation, promising to repeal the law if elected.

No matter what, the sharp disagreement between candidates on these issues likely means that one corollary issue–tort reform–will continue to provoke discussion. As medical malpractice attorneys have advocated for decades, contrary to claims made otherwise, tort reform laws do virtually no good for the general public while taking away fundamental legal rights from them. In other words, these laws are not a balancing act–they are power grabs by certain interests seeking to insulate themselves for the accountability that everyone else is obligated to provide when they make mistakes.

For that reason it is helpful to reiterate the facts. As reported this week at Healthcare Daily, studies continue to pour in showing that proposed effects of tort reform laws are illusory–they do not come to pass. This is best illustrated in Texas.

In 2003, Texas passed a constitutional amendment which limited rights of those filing medical malpractice lawsuits. The idea was that this amendment would result in two things: (1) more doctors would open up shop in the state; and (2) health care costs for the public would go down.

Yet not one, but three, balanced, incisive studies have all found the same thing–those benefits did not materialize. For example, researchers from the University of Texas found that not only did physicians in the state not increase, but physicians were not fleeing the state before the law.

Researchers also took a look at healthcare costs before and after the law. Did the public pay less for premiums as a result of the constitutional amendment limiting legal rights? No. In fact, the report from the non-profit advocacy group “Public Citizen” found that Medicare and private insurance spending actually increased faster than the national average since the law. No one is necessarily suggesting that the law caused the increase, but it is preposterous to claim that the law somehow limited premiums. It didn’t.

That is no surprise considering that the insurance lobby is one of the largest groups supporting laws that limit the rights of those hurt by medical malpractice. Insurance companies do not like paying out on claims, and so they often do everything in their power to limit exposure. But these companies do like premiums to be higher. That is why tort reform laws are such a boon to these big interests, they pay out less but collect the same amount. The only one’s hurt are medical patients.

All of this is simply another reminder of the need to be vigilant about spreading honest information about tort reform laws. Each Illinois medical malpractice attorney at our firm knows that debates will rage on, and the only way to beat back those pushing the measures is wit fair, honest information about the legislation
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