When selling tort reform efforts to the general public, proponents often make two claims: it will lower healthcare costs and encourage doctors to move to the region. Community members are reasonably interested in these concepts, as lower costs and better care should be a mission for all of us. However, our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys appreciate that not only do those promises not bear fruit, but the “reforms” come at the cost of patient safety and legal rights.
We no longer need to speculate about what the effect of these laws will be, because we have real data in many places that enacted various forms of tort reform laws years ago. Texas was often used as an example of the great benefit of these laws. During his brief stint as a presidential candidate, for example, Texas Governor Rick Perry touted the tort reform laws in his state as helping to curb medical costs and drive more doctors to the state.
Medical malpractice attorneys and other patient rights advocates know that before real, impartial data existed on the effect of tort reform efforts those supporting the law–including large health care interests and the insurance lobby–tried to exaggerate the benefits of the law.
Research now makes clear that the purported benefits of these tort reform laws did not bear fruit. The newest information from a team of legal researchers, including a professor from Northwestern University School of Law, found that healthcare costs did not drop after the 2003 tort reform constitutional amendment passed in Texas. Not only that, but the reform did not even slow spending when compared with other states. In other words, it was big dud, at the expense of legal rights for countless Texas families. The only beneficiaries, as usual, were the already profitable insurance companies and large medical interests.
The new study was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. It involved examination of Medicare data on Texas patients in various counties from 2002 to 2009. The idea was that costs might have been reduced following the law because doctors would practice less “defensive” medicine, and lower costs. Was that true? The research showed not.
One researcher explained, “If tort reform reduces spending, it would have the biggest effect on high-risk counties.” But the results showed no spending differences in those counties–or any counties. In other words, tort reform has no effect on medical spending.
In fact, another researcher–a former health policy worker for President George W. Bush–noted that the group “found no evidence that Texas spending went up slower in comparison to all other states and may have had an increase.”
This research is simply more proof of the incredibly misguided approach of tort reform laws. None of the positive effects are shown, with the changes being negative for regular community members: fewer legal rights. The Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at our firm will work hard to share honest information about these issues in the hope that increasing public awareness of the truth about tort reform laws will translate into rejection of these laws when proposed by state and federal governments.
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