In 2003, Texas passed a constitutional amendment reforming medical malpractice law and placing punitive damages caps (like pain and suffering) on med-mal lawsuits. Supporters of the law believed that medical malpractice tort reform would bring more doctors to the state and lower the overall cost of health care. However, research conducted over the past nine years found that neither claims seem to be true.
In the most recent study regarding Texas medical malpractice reform, a group of researchers headed up by a University of Texas law professor studied health care costs in Texas counties between 2003 and 2009.
The study was conducted by a bipartisan group of researchers, paid for by public universities, and published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
Wrong assumptions about medical malpractice
Those who thought that health care costs would go down after tort reform believed that, without the huge threat of medical malpractice, specialists would reduce the number of tests and procedures done on patients. However, health care costs rose in all 50 states and costs rose 1 to 2 percent faster in Texas. “Defensive medicine” did not seem to drop, though the number of medical malpractice cases in Texas did go down.
In addition, the number of doctors in Texas did not significantly increase, as expected by supporters of the reforms.
The head researcher of the study said he was “very pessimistic” that lawmakers would read the study and come to different conclusions about the medical malpractice laws which aren’t having their desired effect.
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