In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed sweeping liability reforms to combat health care lawsuit abuse, reverse skyrocketing professional liability insurance premiums, and ensure Texans’ access to high-quality medical care. Texas voters then approved Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that ratified the legislature’s authority to impose these most important reforms.
By all measures, the reforms have worked exactly as promised. Patients have better access to needed and timely care. More physicians provide specialty and high-risk obstetrical care in both urban and rural areas. Physicians enjoy lower premiums and a more competitive liability insurance market.
One key provision in the law, a higher liability threshold for emergency services, ensured that severely ill and injured patients receive timely critical care. This is important because physicians providing emergency care need greater protection from lawsuit abuse. In many cases, they must provide life-saving care immediately and with limited patient information. In the past two sessions, tort reform adversaries have tried to reduce this protection. We expect this issue to return in 2009 with additional aggressive attempts to weaken Texas’ landmark reforms. We must protect the existing laws. The reforms are good for Texas and good for Texas patients.
Medicine’s 2009 Agenda
- Protect the 2003 health care liability reforms, including caps on noneconomic damages and protecting emergency services.
- Expand the Texas Medical Board’s (TMB’s) jurisdiction to include physicians’ testimony in liability cases regarding appropriate standards of medical care.
- Texas has gained more than 14,000 new physicians to take care of Texas patients. Many of these physicians practice high-risk specialties such as emergency medicine, neurosurgery, pediatric intensive care, and pediatric infectious disease medicine. Patients now can get more timely and convenient care when needed.
- Twenty-one rural Texas counties have added at least one obstetrician since the passage of Proposition 12, including 12 counties that previously had none.
- The emergency care provisions have saved lives by helping ensure Texas patients have access to critical and timely care. The threat of lawsuit frenzy could harm Texas’ emergency room care.
- The 2003 liability reforms have worked. They’ve lived up to their promise. Sick and injured Texans now have more physicians who are more willing and able to give them the medical care they need.
Watch this 1-minute videoto see what your medical association is doing to protect the liability reforms and how you can help.
See all of TMA’s legislative issue briefs in the Governmental Affairs section of the TMA Web site.