Political rhetoric surrounding healthcare costs has oftentimes cast medical malpractice lawyers as the real reasons that costs remain high. According to the Associated Press and several other sources, however, Governor Rick Perry’s medical malpractice reforms may have done nothing to bring more doctors to the state, to improve access to care or to provide any of the other benefits the Governor has claimed.
Underserved and Rural
In Texas’s rural areas, there are still pockets where physician availability is abysmal. Some rural counties have no doctors who can perform emergency care, deliver babies or perform other necessary services. While the Governor has claimed that his tort reform resulted in many more doctors coming to the state, numbers reported by the American Association for Justice show that the number of physicians in the state was increasing prior to 2003 already and that the rate of increase did not go up following the tort reform.
The increase in doctor numbers, according to the Associated Press, was most noticeable in the cities, where there were already plenty of providers available. The growth in doctors was also tied directly to the growth in population on the whole.
The Tort Reform
The tort reform itself limited the non-economic damages that can be sought from individual physicians to $250,000. This is the same damage cap that some national politicians have been advocating be implemented on a federal level. Lawyers and patient advocates point to the fact that there is little evidence that demonstrates that the cost of healthcare is increasing because of malpractice lawsuits and the fact that the patients who are affected by malpractice sometimes sue for very convincing reasons.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
A doctor or healthcare provider that takes on a person as a patient also takes on certain responsibilities to that patient when they do so. When these duties are breached, the consequences for the patients can be devastating. They sometimes include:
- The loss of the ability to work
- The loss of mobility
- Conditions that worsen because of not having been detected
- Expensive medical bills
- Complications with other conditions
With no way to even cover the costs that resulted from the malpractice they suffered, some individuals seek out compensation by filing a lawsuit. This is sometimes the best way for patients to go and, with a good medical malpractice lawyer, there’s a chance that they can get enough money to cover the costs of losing work, medical care and more.
Efforts to reform medical malpractice law have oftentimes concentrated on how malpractice insurance and lawsuits scare doctors away from opening new practices. There is a good chance that any doctor, particularly one in a high-risk field, will be hit with a medical malpractice lawsuit at some point during their career. The relationship between this and physician availability and healthcare costs, however, is not as clear as politicians say and, most of the time, the so-called reforms only end up injuring patients and failing to deliver on providing more options, as many reports have now demonstrated.