Tort Reform 10 Years Later

The health care liability reforms of 2003 have worked. Record numbers of physicians are applying for state medical licenses. Hospitals are investing the savings from reduced liability premiums in new service lines and initiatives to better meet the needs of their communities. Patient safety and quality initiatives to reduce adverse events and medical errors are flourishing.

All the goals of health care liability reform have been achieved:
  • Decrease in the number of unfounded health care liability lawsuits. ✔
  • Decrease in professional liability insurance rates. ✔
  • Increase in number of medical liability insurers. ✔
  • Increase in the number of physicians in Texas.
  • Return of medical specialists to the state.
  • Improved access to care.

1. Improved access to care

  • Hospitals are using the savings from reduced liability insurance premiums to fund investments in critical infrastructure and services that improve patient care.
  • Liability insurance premiums have decreased every year since 2003
  • Hospitals are collectively saving ~$100 million a year on liability premiums
  • Investing in technology and equipment:
    • 37 percent of hospitals used savings to maintain, update, or add new medical equipment in radiology, the lab, or pharmacy
    • Hospitals are using liability savings to fund electronic medical records
  • Investing in services:
    • 51 percent of hospitals used savings to maintain/expand coverage or services for uninsured/underinsured patients, including satellite clinics in underserved areas.

2. Return of medical specialists and restoration of specialty care

  • Reduced liability risk has allowed hospitals, particularly small and rural hospitals, to restore high-risk services, i.e. OB, ED, trauma, neurosurgery, and increase the availability of needed care.
  • 54 rural counties have seen a net gain in ER doctors since 2003.
  • 35 rural counties have added at least one OB since 2003, 14 of which had no OB previously
  • Number of pediatric subspecialists increased 300 percent between 2003 and 2012.
  • Number of emergency physicians increased 106 percent between 2003 and 2012
  • Number of neurosurgeons increased 23 percent between 2003 and 2012

3. Increased number of physicians in Texas

  • Hospitals have easier time recruiting physicians and therefore meeting the need for high-risk services, including OB, ED, and neurosurgery.
  • In 2012, the Texas Medical Board licensed 3,630 new doctors, the highest number of any year on record.
  • Hospitals better able to recruit neurosurgeons and surgeons to cover trauma in the ER.

According to Texas Government Code 305.027, portions of this material may be considered “legislative advertising.” Authorization for its publication is made by John Hawkins, Texas Hospital Association, 1108 Lavaca, Suite 700, Austin, TX 78701-2180.