Texas, for Doctors, a Tort Reform Success Story

By November 14, 2007General

However, the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors, is being overwhelmed.

This KTRK-TV story from Houston reports on orthopedic surgeon Keith Hill, who recently moved to Beaumont.

Dr. Hill chose Texas over a lot of other places because of the opportunities he saw here. He certainly is not the only one who has recently decided to move to Texas because it’s a great place to practice medicine. In fact, this year more than 4,000 doctors have applied for licenses to practice in Texas. That’s up from just over 2,500 applications in 2002.

Texas Medical Board member Dr. Margaret McNeese said, “It was just this exponential growth.”

Dr. McNeese says the spike started in 2005, shortly after tort reform which limited malpractice lawsuits and greatly lowered insurance premiums for doctors and hospitals.

She said, “I think it’s phenomenal for Texas.”

And The Houston Chronicle worked the same story (a week earlier), finding the down side of the flood of new doctors — delays in licensing.*

The lobbying organization formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and their allies are dismissing the clear trend as…Well, they’re just dismissing it. Sure, there are more doctors, but not ob-gyns coming to small rural towns complains Steven J. Klearman of InjuryBoard.com. We were promised baby doctors!

In Texas, this is called moving the goalposts. Advocates of the medical malpractice reform measure, Proposition 18, argued that passage would lower insurance costs and help attract more doctors. Which has happened. The difficulty of attracting obstetricians to small rural communities nationwide is a function of much more than malpractice costs — lifestyle preferences and compensation come to mind — but you can bet without Prop 18 the exodus from rural Texas would only worsen.

Still, you have to admire the skilled lawyerly argumentation to turn a huge success story into a failure.

* You know how media critics say how the (biased) New York Times sets the agenda for journalists all across the country? The Times’ story, “More Doctors in Texas After Malpractice Caps,” ran Oct. 5. Good story.

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