Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another Conservative Position Exposed as Myth – Tort Reform and Limiting Malpractice Awards Has Not Brought More Physicians to Texas

Didn’t Lower Costs Either

One of the discouraging things about the Conservative political arguments is that they are so wrong, so mis-directed and so unsupported by fact, logic and data that they result in a huge waste of time.  Part of the waste is by Conservatives themselves; instead of setting forth sane and substantial proposal that can be debated by rational people they put forth ideological driven agendas that have no appeal because the positions are unsupportable. 

The rest of the waste is generated by people like The Dismal Political Economist who have to spend hours debunking the positions of the Conservatives, in the hope, mostly unrealized, that serious people will not take the Conservatives seriously.  There is ot greater example of the problem than the area of medical costs.

Conservatives abhor the rights of individuals who feel they are wronged to seek redress in the courts.  Therefore, even though it accounts for only about 2.5% of all medical costs, (which is too high and should be brought down) medical liability and the medical mal-practice suits that accompany it are, in the fantasy world of Conservatives, the primary cause for high medical costs.

a new report, published this week in the journalHealth Affairs, estimating the annual cost related to medical liability is $55.6 billion — or 2.4 percent of the nation's total healthcare spending.

Case in point, Texas.

In 2003, the state enacted a series of malpractice reforms, including limits on non-economic damages ("pain and suffering") and creation of an independent panel charged with approving lawsuits before they could proceed. 

Seven years later, healthcare costs in parts of the state remain sky-high.

 That their position on malpractice claims and health care costs is patently untrue is no cause for them to abandon such a belief.  Conservatives take this even further, arguing that if tort reform reduced these costs, more physicians would flock to states that did that.  Here is a Texas politician arguing that point.

"In Texas, medical liability reform has attracted thousands of new doctors to the state — over 15,000 since reform passed in 2003. Before reform, doctors were leaving the state," Burgess said. 

Well, as they used to say, let’s go to the video tape.  The Economist has a report on malpractice reform in Texas and the number of physicians in the state, along with a nice chart.  This British based news magazine is about the closest thing there is to objective reporting on issues in the U. S, and here is their conclusion and their chart.

Texas politicians, including Mr Perry, credit the state’s 2003 cap of $250,000 for most cases for bringing a flood of doctors to the state, though the extent of that is disputed. They often cite a sustained jump in medical licences granted (which began in about 2006). Our chart, based on research by three university economists, took a different metric, using state health department’s figures for doctors who work directly with patients. These were on a gradual upward trend well before 2003, and show no acceleration after that. Per-capita numbers begin, in fact, to flatten out around 2003.

So no, physicians were not leaving the state prior to malpractice limits, and they are not flooding the state after malpractice limits.  Anyone believe this data will now cause Conservatives to abandon their arguments? No, well then the public is getting smarter, isn’t it.

1 comment:

  1. Houston,
    We have a problem...

    From: Texas On the Brink

    "In Texas today, the American dream is distant. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with their high school diploma and near last in SAT scores. Texas has America’s dirtiest air. If we do not change course, for the first time in our history, the Texas generation of tomorrow will be less prosperous than the generation of today."

    Health Care

    (50th=Lowest, 1st=Highest)

    • Percent of Population Uninsured 1st
    • Percent of Non-Elderly Uninsured 1st
    • Percent of Low Income Population Covered
    by Medicaid 49th
    • Percent of Population with
    Employer-Based Health Insurance 48th
    • Total State Government Health Expenditures
    as Percent of the Gross State Product 43rd
    • Per Capita State Spending on Mental Health 50th
    • Per Capita State Spending on Medicaid 49th
    • Percent of Population Physically Active 36th
    • Health Care Expenditures per Capita 44th
    • Hospital Beds per 1,000 Population 27th

    Health Professionals per Capita:
    • Physicians 42nd
    • Dentists 39th
    • Registered Nurses 44th

    But, we all know the facts have a liberal bias.