Fred Thompson on Tort Reform

Fred Thompson believes that Federalism is the key to meaningful tort reform. He writes that, rather than relying on Washington to solve the problem of malpractice abuse, we should look to the states. To support this proposition, he cites the Texas experience:

Only a few years ago, Texas was losing doctors fast. Rising malpractice insurance rates were fueling what analysts called a crisis. In some parts of the state, emergency wards were closing and residents were facing long trips for even basic medical care.

And physicians were not alone in their flight from Texas. All but four insurance companies had stopped selling malpractice insurance to doctors. Then, in order to avoid a complete medical meltdown, the state passed serious tort reform legislation:

Texas passed Prop 12, capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits to $750,000. $250,000 of that applied to physicians. There were no limits put on damages for medical expenses or economic expenses such as past and future lost income.

And the results of this legislation?

Now 30 insurers are doing business in the Lone Star State and others are moving into the market. Rates have fallen on an average of more than 20 percent. Malpractice lawsuits have fallen 50 percent.

But this is not, as the enemies of tort reform would have it, a gift for “rich doctors” and “corporate fat cats.” It is a major victory for the patients, who will continue to have access to basic medical care in their own communities.

Thompson is right. Considering that congress is now controlled by a party in thrall to the trial lawyers, the primary hope for serious tort reform lies with the states. Let’s hope they take up the banner.

Comments 7

  1. Matt wrote:

    As has been pointed out many times before, states that already had caps lost insurers as well. Now, states that still don’t have caps are gaining insurers and their rates are falling as well. It’s the economic cycle, same as always.

    Texas did not lose physicians. Nor have they gained them any faster than they were. In fact, the gain falls below the overall population gain for the state of Texas. Naturally, more people means more hospitals being built – and Texas has had quite a few new ones built – and thus more jobs for physicians.

    Malpractice lawsuits fell because so many were filed before the deadline of the effective date. That’s a silly claim to make.

    It’s not a gift for rich doctors, though, you’re right. It’s a gift to insurers, at the expense of people with serious injuries. Patients don’t win anything. They just lose, particularly if they have suffered a seriouyos injury as a result of malpractice. There was no danger of a loss of basic medical care in Texas communities.

    Tell me, o libertarian one, when did you decide to put the rights of insurers to maintain profit margins over the rights of the individual? And do you always swallow all claims that fit your preconceived notion without question?

    Or maybe you mean something different by “serious tort reform” than simply arbitrarily capping the recovery of those injured the worst?

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 9:58 am
  2. Matt wrote:

    By the way, as someone who believes that health care is not a right, you seem to argue that it’s a wrong that people who live in rural areas might not have access to medical care. Are they entitled to have a doctor down the street?

    Which Texas communities did not have “basic medical care” that you think do have a right to such care within their own towns?

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 9:59 am
  3. Catron wrote:

    Matt, you continue to make the same old gratuitous (and tired) assertions, without giving me any reason to take them seriously. If, for example, you believe that Texas didn’t actually lose physicians, then provide some supporting documentation.

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 12:19 pm
  4. Matt wrote:

    I’m sorry you find the facts tiresome, but I find your continued claim to libertarianism and your continued recitation of misleading statistics tiresome.

    Perhaps most misleading is the old “claims fell by half” one. Obviously they did, because hundreds of claims that would normally have been settled pre-suit or filed the following year or the year after were filed to beat the effective date. So undoubtedly, claims fell by 1/2, if not more. That doesn’t mean the “reforms” were particularly effective at weeding out “frivolous” claims.

    Here’s some other info for you to digest, as if your belief in this wasn’t faith based:

    http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/colloquium/papers/BlackandSilverpaper.pdf

    According to the folks at UT, who have no particular axe to grind, payouts in Texas have largely remained flat. As you know, payouts are what matter most, because that’s the actual money the insurer pays.

    Texas’ population increase, just between ’04 and ’05, was nearly 400,000. Think that would naturally result in more employment opportunities for doctors, regardless of all other factors?

    http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/006142.html

    When you throw in the growth between 2000-2003, that means that Texas’ population has increased by nearly 1 million people. Again, do you not think that has an incredible effect on the demand for physicians?

    http://www.dallasfed.org/research/pubs/fotexas/fotexas_petersen.html

    You have referenced the number of physicians applying for jobs in Texas, but make no reference to the number leaving, so we have no idea what the NET gain is, if any. So your claims with regard to the number of new physicians meaning something is misleading. Now, you may find the obvious flaws in your claims “tired”, but they remain flaws. Incidentally, you can confirm your numbers w/ regard to physicians at the Texas Medical Board’s website. It’s not presented in that easy of a form to simply cut and paste.

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 2:04 pm
  5. Matt wrote:

    But here’s the broader question for you, libertarian. Why should meritorious claims have their value arbitrarily capped by the legislature and lobbyists?

    If health care is not a right, especially?

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 2:05 pm
  6. Catron wrote:

    I’m sorry you find the facts tiresome …

    It isn’t “the facts? that I find tiresome. It is your inability to differentiate between them and your gratuitous assertions. For example:

    Hundreds of claims that would normally have been settled pre-suit or filed the following year or the year after were filed to beat the effective date.

    You have made this assertion several times and never provided objective data to support it.

    According to the folks at UT, who have no particular axe to grind, payouts in Texas have largely remained flat.

    I don’t share your touching “faith? that they have no ax to grind. Indeed, their factors appear to have been “controlled? to reach a foregone conclusion.

    Finally, none of these links provide data supporting your earlier assertion that “Texas did not lose physicians.?

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 9:51 pm
  7. Matt wrote:

    I’m sorry your Google is broken.

    Are you really questioning UT, but swallowing whole the insurers and their lobbyists’ claims? Seriously? You’re casting aspersions on those with no financial interest, but buying the liability carriers’ claims? Really? You’re some libertarian!

    Do you really think I’m making that up about filing those claims? What sane lawyer or litigant wouldn’t do that? If you were in a car wreck tomorrow, and despite your love of insurance companies they didn’t think it was their driver’s fault, and I told you on August 1 your damages would be capped at $100, wouldn’t you want your lawyer to file BEFORE that, regardless of where the case was?

    Here’s an insurance backed lobbying group giving you the numbers for Harris County alone:

    http://www.tapa.info/html/Newsroom/2005/News_May_16_2005.html

    “Malpractice lawsuits in Harris County have dropped to about half of what they were in 2001 and 2002, according to the district clerk’s office. There were 204 such cases filed in 2004, compared with 441 in 2001 and 550 in 2002. There were 1,154 lawsuits filed in 2003, attributed to attorneys trying to file before the new law took effect.”

    I provided you the info on where to go for the number of Texas doctors. As I told you, it’s not one link, you have to look at each year on the site separately. At this point, in order to preserve your faith, you’ve clearly passed over into willful ignorance.

    Hey, why no answer to my question, libertarian? Why should meritorious claims have their value arbitrarily capped by the legislature, regardless of the facts?

    Posted 22 Jun 2007 at 11:20 pm

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  1. From Auto Insurance » Blog Archive » All State Insurance June 22, 2007 9:59 am on 22 Jun 2007 at 9:02 am

    [...] Fred Thompson on Tort Reform And physicians were not alone in their flight from the lone star state. All but four insurance companies had stopped selling malpractice insurance to doctors. Then, in order to avoid a complete medical meltdown, the state passed serious … [...]

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