The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Patient care benefits from malpractice caps

By Katie B. Martinez/reporter

Medical lawsuit caps are necessary to ensure patients receive the quality care they need when they need it.

In 2006 Texas became the 26th state to adopt medical liability reform, and the state remains a shining example of why medical caps are of great benefit to the average patient.

Prior to the passing of Proposition 12 in Texas, the state was in a health care crisis. Texas ranked 48th out of the 50 states in physician manpower.

Skyrocketing insurance premiums were driving doctors out of the state. Many hospitals could not fully staff their emergency rooms.

Two out of every three Texas counties had no obstetrician, forcing expectant mothers to travel long distances to deliver their babies and in some cases, forego prenatal care altogether.

Most affected by the crisis were the people who needed help the most—the critically ill, the poor and those living in rural areas.

During a four-year period, malpractice insurance rates rose from 22 percent to 128 percent, and Texas nursing homes saw an increase of 2,000 percent between 1999 and 2002.

While some people blamed the increase on the “greedy insurance companies,” a review of their financial statements proved the companies were losing money.

The real problem was the astounding number of lawsuits filed against Texas doctors and hospitals. 

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2003 some areas registered 300 lawsuits for every 100 doctors and that 86 percent of those lawsuits were found to have no merit.

In these cases, the doctors were found not guilty of malpractice but still incurred legal defense fees of an average $20,000-$40,000 for each trial.

Proposition 12, passing in Texas by a scant 2 percent of the votes, placed a cap on the amount of money awarded for non-economic damages or pain and suffering.

The cap ensures a maximum judgment of $750,000 or $250,000 per doctor or hospital per incident. No cap exists on what a claimant can receive for past and future medical expenses or economic loss.

Since the passing of Proposition 12, Texas has been transformed from a state in crisis to a model for national legislation on medical liability reform.

Doctors have been flooding back into Texas by the thousands, and hospitals that were once near bankruptcy, are operating smoothly again.

So while to some it may seem that placing a cap on medical liability only benefits the physician, time has shown that it benefits everyone in the health care industry —especially the patients.

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