Association Says Texas Liability Reforms a Positive for Physicians, Patients

September 13, 2006

The Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), a national trade association that represents doctor-owned and/or operated medical professional liability insurance companies, reported that medical liability reforms enacted in 2003 by the Texas Legislature have had an unprecedented impact on both the cost of medical professional liability coverage and the availability of healthcare in the state of Texas.

“We have learned today that our member company, The Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT), has filed for its fourth rate reduction since the enactment of House Bill 4 (the Texas Tort Reform Bill) in 2003,” said Lawrence Smarr, president of the PIAA, in the association’s announcement. “With its filing of a 7.5 percent rate reduction for the 2007 policy year, TMLT has reduced rates on a cumulative basis by 29.5 percent over the past four years for a savings of more than $55 million for Texas physicians. This total is even greater when you take into account the $10 million dividend declared in 2006 and 20 percent dividend amounting to approximately $35 million announced for 2007.”

“These are among the most significant cost reductions we have seen in medical professional liability rates since the enactment and subsequent exhaustion of all constitutional challenges to the California MICRA Legislation in 1985,” continued Smarr. “We have long advocated that caps on judgments for non-economic damages – the focal point of the Texas reforms – would have a significant impact on the medical liability crisis. We are now seeing the results first hand and hope that legislators in other states as well as those on a federal level will take notice of this success.”

In addition to easing the financial burden for physicians, the third anniversary of the enactment of House Bill 4 on Sept. 13, 2006, will mark a drastic change in access to healthcare for residents of Texas. According to the Texas Medical Board (TMB), Texas is licensing an average of 400 more physicians per year than in the pre-reform years. In addition, the TMB is anticipating a record 4,100 applications for new physician licenses in 2006. That figure is 38 percent greater than last year, which previously was the Board’s busiest year on record.

“When liability exposure is constrained by damage caps, physicians who once left a jurisdiction due to both the cost of malpractice insurance and the level of personal risk are more likely to return to serve that area,” stated Smarr. “You have to look no further than Texas to see the success of these reforms. Underserved areas can now gain much-needed specialists such obstetricians, neurosurgeons, and emergency medicine physicians. Because of this legislation, access to medical care in Texas is growing, not declining as in the years prior to the passage of effective tort reforms.”

The PIAA is an association of doctor/provider owned and/or operated medical liability insurance companies which insure over 60 percent of America’s private practicing physicians as well as dentists, hospitals, and other healthcare providers.

Source: PIAA

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