The Obama administration wants to spend $25 million to figure out best practices in tort reform. A better idea would be to save the money and just adopt what Texas did six years ago to solve its medical malpractice lawsuit overabundance.
Tort reform is a term commonly used by the media, people at town hall meetings and now President Obama, but it is not clear whether everyone is referring to the same thing. Tort reform means eliminating frivolous lawsuits against physicians and hospitals.
The Texas Legislature in 2003 adopted sweeping changes to its civil justice system that significantly altered when, where and how many lawsuits could be filed. In the medical malpractice area, those reforms were basically threefold.
First, to sustain a lawsuit against the medical care provider, an expert report was required within 120 days of filing the suit stating that the doctor being sued committed a medical error that caused injuries.
Prior to 2003, such reports were left to the discretion of the judge handling the case. The Legislature made it mandatory and defined an expert to be someone actually practicing medicine in the same field as the doctor being sued, or a similar field.
The effect of this simple reform has been to discourage many frivolous lawsuits. Previously, a litigant could simply bring a lawsuit without any medical evidence to support the suit. Doctors were then forced to defend themselves in court at an average cost of more than $50,000 per suit. With one in five doctors being sued each year, the expense of frivolous suits was staggering.
Second, noneconomic damages were capped to control arbitrary awards on pain and suffering or loss of consortium. Though 30 states now have a cap on noneconomic damages, noneconomic damages now make up more than two-thirds of jury verdicts.
The Texas cap only applies to those damages that are not capable of an objective value, letting claimants still receive full compensation for out-of-pocket expenses, medical expenses, lost income and future expenses.
The combination of prohibiting doctors and health care providers from being exposed to unlimited and arbitrary awards, and requiring an actual medical report at the outset, have cut the number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Texas in half.
The third significant tort reform was to prohibit the introduction into evidence of phantom damages. The Texas rule of evidence, which previously allowed for the recovery of "reasonable and necessary" medical expenses, was being misused. The actual expenses were often much less than the billed charges, in the same way that no one pays the manufacturer's suggested retail price of an automobile.
Accordingly, the legislature changed the law to require that the damages are to be the actual expenses "paid or incurred" by the claimant. With the elimination of phantom damages, the law now requires the actual cost associated with any medical mistake be reimbursed.
These common-sense reforms have led to a massive increase in the accessibility of health care in Texas, huge growth in the capital infrastructure of hospitals and clinics, hundreds of millions of dollars more each year in charity care and Texas' adding more than 16,000 new doctors in just six years.
And in reducing the actual number of suits to those in which claims are meritorious — a recent Harvard study concluded that up to 85% of all lawsuits brought against medical providers were frivolous — we have created a more equitable system of justice.
So when people speak of tort reform, know that the effective reforms they should be talking about include expert reports, a cap on noneconomic damages and truth in expenses. These common-sense reforms are what have helped Texas bring fairness to its civil justice system.
President Obama, save our money. Follow Texas' lead.
• Nixon, an attorney, served six terms in the Texas House of Representatives, where he chaired the Committee on Civil Practices his last two terms. Considered the architect of Texas' medical malpractice reforms, he is now a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Texas Pharmacy Business Council is endorsing Gov. Rick Perry for re-election. TPBC represents more than 1,700 independent community pharmacists and small business owners who employ more than 19,000 Texans.
“Gov. Perry has a clear record of assuring patient access to independent community pharmacies,” said TPBC Chair Bruce Rogers, RPh, of Victoria. “Beginning as a state representative from the rural West Texas town of Haskell and continuing while serving as our lieutenant governor and governor, he has demonstrated his understanding of the important role community pharmacists play in the delivery of quality health care, especially in rural Texas.
“Independent community pharmacy is the face of small business,” Rogers said. “Gov. Perry’s commitment to fostering a strong business climate in Texas is keeping us strong through the sluggish national economy. He also has consistently made quality appointments to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.”
TPBC Executive Director Richard Beck, RPh notes that during the past legislative session, Gov. Perry supported and signed into law SB704, precedent-setting legislation mandating transparency in state contracts with pharmacy benefit managers. It allows state agencies to discuss with each other the details of their PBM contracts and merits of individual PBM proposals and quality of service.
“It is particularly important that this legislation also grants the state full auditing rights to ascertain whether the PBM is delivering on its promises,” Beck said.
The law also increases access to the pharmacy of their choice for active and retired state employees and teachers.
“We hope Congress will make the same demands in the health care reform currently being debated,” Beck said. “Transparency in PBM contracts is equally important in business and other non-government prescription drug benefit programs.”
TPBC is a collaboration between the independent pharmacy buying cooperative American Pharmacies and the Academy of Independent Pharmacists-Texas. It is dedicated to ensuring access to quality pharmacy services and preserving the independent pharmacy profession. www.TxRxCouncil.org
In these tough economic times for our nation, it is important to acknowledge that ideas still matter. It is not arbitrary that Texas has an unemployment rate nearly 2% below the national rate, or that California's unemployment rate is roughly 4% higher than it is in Texas. Our state didn't create more jobs in 2008 than the other 49 states combined by accident. It is no fluke that Texas is the #1 exporting state in the nation for several years running.
On Fox Business News, Governor Perry spoke at length with host David Asman about the relative economic and fiscal strength of Texas, even in these tough times. Governor Perry reiterated his five keys to success, including:
1. Don't spend all the money.
2. Keep the taxes low.
3. Make sure the regulatory climate is fair and predictable.
4. Tort reform to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
5. Fund an accountable education system to produce a skilled workforce.
Despite a malicious denial-of-service attack on RickPerry.org today, thousands of Texans were able to participate in "Talkin' Texas" and listen to Governor Rick Perry talk about his record and vision for Texas.
Governor Perry reflected on the conservative legislative accomplishments in Texas that have positioned our state for success. If you missed it earlier, you can now watch the live portion of the video for yourself:
Governor Perry today offered several new proposals to maintain Texas’ positive momentum, including:
• A constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to increase state taxes;
• Making permanent the recent tax cut extended to 40,000 small businesses in the last legislative session (under current law, the $1 million business margins tax exemption will expire in 2011);
• Imposing criminal penalties on employers who knowingly violate employment laws by hiring workers who are in Texas illegally; and
•Paving the way for ongoing job growth by purging unnecessary laws and regulations that stifle Texas entrepreneurs.
The event, which garnered more than 22,000 views in spite of the attack, was streamed live from the HOLT-Caterpillar facility in San Antonio. Check back at http://RickPerry.org/talkin-texas and look out for regular updates.
WASHINGTON—Health care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered for the annual Values Voter Summit, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
“To me, there are so many more important issues than health care right now,” said John Leaman, a retired yacht builder from Lancaster, Pa. Added his wife Linda, a waitress: “I don’t think it’s as urgent as Obama’s making it out to be.” The real problem, she said, is illegal immigrants “cluttering up our emergency rooms.”
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, speaks with Esther Fleece, director of Millennial Studies, at the 2009 Values Voter Summit in Washington. Health care reform was largely absent from the agenda and was not a factor in voters’ choices in a straw poll of possible 2012 GOP presidential candidates. (RNS PHOTO/Nick Kirkpatrick)
Indeed, among the dozen issues that summit participants cited in casting their votes in a straw poll for possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, health care never made the list. The top three issues were abortion, protecting religious liberty and opposing same-sex marriage.
“It’s up to us to help each other; it’s not the government’s job to take care of us,” said Texan Karen Marsalis, a retired teacher from Deadwood, whose shirt, like her husband’s, featured stars and stripes and images of the Statue of Liberty.
Just days before the summit got underway, a report by the University of Akron and the liberal-leaning group Public Religion Research found that conservative and progressive activists don’t just disagree on hot-button issues on the public agenda, they can’t agree on the agenda itself.
Conservative activists—typified by the “values voters” who rallied in Washington— picked abortion (83 percent) and same-sex marriage (65 percent) as their top two issues; just 6 percent cited health care. Progressives, meanwhile, cited poverty (74 percent) and health care (67 percent).
The only organized attention that health care received at the two-day summit was a panel discussion on “ObamaCare: Rationing Your Life Away.”
Participants booed at any mention of “Obamacare,” and cheered Texas Gov. Rick Perry when he decried a government that “has its hands too far in our pockets and its nose too deep in our business.”
Many participants drew a distinction between access to health care and health care reform. Anyone who needs treatment, they said, can get the care they need. How they pay for it is their problem, no one else’s.
“Personal responsibility is not something people want to do anymore,” said Debbie Michael of Mount Airy, Md. “We expect the government to do it all.”
Still, some at the summit said there is room for improvement. Lorie Watson, a nurse from Simpsonville, S.C., works for an insurance company administrating third-party claims and worries about the high costs of drugs and tests. She said Washington could have “a limited role in reform, but not in providing health care.”
Gov. Rick Perry stopped at the coffee shop area in the Market Street at 50th and Indiana shortly after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Nearly 200 people waited to show their support for Perry who wants to stay Texas governor for a third term.
"People are going to decide by virtue of the policies we put in place. I've always been a believer in public policy makes good politics," says Perry. But Perry has some competition. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced earlier this month she wanted to be the republican on the 2010 gubernatorial ballot.
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Perry went on the radio with Senator Dan Patrick, who was filling in for Lou Dobbs on his national radio program.
You can listen to the entire 12-minute segment here:
Governor Perry with Dan Patrick
The two discussed how Washington should follow the Texas model, not the other way around, addressing issues like Obamacare and the town halls, how to attract business, and the real meaning of the United States Constitution's 10th Amendment.