Rep. McReynolds Reports on Texas Med-Mal Reform

In State Representative Jim McReynolds’ latest “Capitol Report,” the legislator discussed three solutions to the problems of Texas medical malpractice system, the reform of which was declared one of the emergency issues for the current session of the Texas Legislature.

McReynolds’ discussion of the issue is as follows:

“I believe that to truly “fix” this problem, three things must happen. First, we need to be sure that the medical professionals who practice in Texas are quality doctors. Secondly, we need to overhaul our legal system by capping punitive damages in cases where willful neglect and imprudent practices did not occur. And finally, demand that insurance companies lower their rates to health professionals by at least 20 percent.

“Texans deserve quality medicine. And to this end, the first bill that we voted for in our Public Health Committee, House Bill 6, strengthens the Board of Medical Examiners by giving them the adequate funding and other tools to get after doctors who are incompetent, who sexually abuse their patients, who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and who have had their licenses revoked in other states. A revealing statistic is that about 6 percent of our physicians account for over half of all medical mal-practice law suits.

“At the same time we were meeting in Public Health, the Civil Practices Committee took up HB 3, which would place a cap on jury-awarded punitive damages against doctors at $250, 000. Actual damages for ongoing medical costs as the result of malpractice are not limited in the bill. Witnesses argued for this legislation by stating that rising costs in malpractice insurance are directly attributable to outrageous settlement claims against doctors and are forcing some professionals to close their practices. Those opposed to tort reform were families who believe they were wrongfully injured by incompetent health professionals.

“Our Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner lamented that malpractice insurance premiums have risen by as much as 150 percent in the past three years in Texas. His analysis showed that these rates hikes can be directly attributable to the frequency and severity of lawsuits against doctors. But some experts warned that unless insurance company rates are regulated by the state that no reform would reign in the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.”