October 11, 2011

Under Governor Rick Perry, Texas has enacted some of the most draconian medical malpractice “reforms” whereby the innocent victims of medical malpractice negligence are highly restricted in the claims they can bring against negligent doctors and other Texas health care providers and in the amounts that they can receive to compensate them for their permanent, painful, and severe injuries and losses. As we previously blogged (see our August 18, 2011 blog), the State of Texas enacted legislation in 2003 that put a cap (limit) on the amount of noneconomic damages that could be recovered in medical malpractice cases in the amount of $250,000 if the claims were against individual medical care providers, with further restrictions and limitations enacted in the following years.

So, what have been some of the unintended results of Texas’ medical malpractice reforms?

The Texas Medical Board reported that its current case load against physicians rose from 276 in fiscal year 2003 to 529 in fiscal year 2010 (almost double!). The cases it received against physicians rose from 483 in fiscal year 2003 to 807 in fiscal year 2010. Formal complaints filed against physicians with the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings rose from 47 in fiscal year 2003 to 128 in fiscal year 2010. Source

By comparison, the number of licensed physicians in Texas only increased from 62,199 in fiscal year 2003 to 70,381 in fiscal year 2009. Source

How has Texas responded to such large increases of complaints against its physicians? By enacting more physician-favorable laws, such as HB 732, which provides that all formal complaints filed with the State Office of Administrative Hearings and medical malpractice board investigations will be removed from the physician’s web profile if it was dismissed with no action taken against the license and it was over five years old.

Has medical malpractice reform in Texas led to an influx of physicians from other states to Texas?

The answer in one word is “no”. The Texas Medical Board reported in its Agency Strategic Plan dated June 18, 2010 that despite the 2003 medical malpractice reforms and subsequent “reforms” in Texas, Texas ranks 42nd in state rankings of physicians per 100,000 population; that the growth in physicians in Texas “is barely keeping pace with population”; that there are shortages in 37 of 40 medical specialty groups, compared with total U.S. ratios per capita; and, that the number of primary care physicians is not growing faster than Texas’ population.

Interestingly, the Texas Medical Board also acknowledged in its Agency Strategic Plan that “a record 6,968 complaints were received in FY 09, resulting in 2,873 investigations opened.”

So how has Texas’ medical malpractice tort reform helped its citizens?

Since tort reform legislation began in earnest in Texas in 2003 and continued thereafter up until the current year, complaints against physicians in Texas have vastly increased. A lesson to be learned from the medical malpractice movement in Texas is that bad medicine remains bad medicine, whatever restrictions are placed on the rights of innocent victims of medical malpractice to bring their claims against negligent (or worse) physicians and no matter how much Texas denigrates its citizens by not allowing them to receive full compensation for their losses caused by careless doctors.

If you or a family member became a victim of medical malpractice by the negligent mistakes or errors of a physician or other health care provider in Texas or in any other state, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. Please visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you with a medical malpractice claim or telephone us toll free at 800-295-3959.

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