Reform in Action: Improving Access to Healthcare
No one would blame you if you missed the shout-out to tort reform in last week’s chaotic Republican presidential debate.
In case you didn’t catch it, former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley responded to a question about how to address out-of-control healthcare costs by highlighting the pressures that unnecessary lawsuits add to our healthcare system:
“How can we be the best country in the world and have the most expensive healthcare in the world? … You’ve got to deal with tort law. The doctors don’t give you the tests because they want to, it’s because of the 90 percent chance they’ll get sued.”
Haley is not the only presidential candidate touting tort reform. Gov. Ron DeSantis has often pointed to Texas as the model he followed in passing tort reform in Florida—even specifically citing Dick Weekley and TLR for leadership on this issue.
In the past, access to healthcare was threatened in Texas because of excessive unwarranted lawsuits against physicians and hospitals. The volume and unpredictability of lawsuits caused doctors’ and hospitals’ liability insurance premiums to skyrocket. This high cost, along with the risk and stress of non-meritorious lawsuits, drove many physicians to leave Texas. The flight of medical professionals was especially pronounced in high-risk specialties, like obstetrics, and in certain parts of the state, like South Texas and many rural areas.
Over the years, the Texas Legislature has enacted comprehensive reforms to help doctors spend less time in the courtroom fighting unnecessary lawsuits and more time treating patients. At the same time, Texans can pursue legitimate cases against doctors and hospitals that cause harm through negligence or intentional misconduct.
These common-sense reforms brought more predictability into the system, allowing medical liability insurance premiums to drop substantially, and helping attract doctors and other medical professionals to the state. According to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, Texas is adding new physicians faster than population growth, including in critical high-risk specialties. And the number of physicians in rural areas is on the upswing, as well.
As a result, Texas is now home to a robust medical community, including many world-class hospitals that have been able to expand patient services and develop innovative treatment programs. So it’s fitting that, as we mark the 20th anniversary of some of the first of those historic reforms—2003’s House Bill 4—Texas was named one of three hubs for a $2.5 billion Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
The biomedical and health research facility will be headquartered in Dallas, but the consortium will include Austin, San Antonio and Houston, with stakeholders in College Station and El Paso also supporting the project.
No doubt this project was a result of the strength of our state’s world-class medical and research facilities, including the Dallas and Houston medical centers. And no doubt medical liability reform helped lay the foundation for the life-changing work that will continue to be done in the Lone Star State.