Some “best” claims about Texas are just plain wrong. Among the most recent of these claims being touted at a national level is that Texas is the “best” example of the benefits that come from medical malpractice tort reform.
I’m referring to presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign message that limiting an injured patient’s ability to sue for damages when severely harmed by medical negligence is adding more doctors to under-served areas of the state, including the Rio Grande Valley.
According to Perry, curbing consumer legal rights in 2003, has attracted an additional 21,000 doctors to the state, lured by the prospect that “they can do what they love and not be sued.”
He went on tell attendees at a campaign stop in New Hampshire in August, “Some 30 counties that didn’t have an emergency room doc have one today. Counties along the Rio Grande, where women were having to travel for miles and miles outside of the county to see an ob-gyn for prenatal care, now have that care.”
The 21,000 number has been debunked by facts before. But now the national media is getting into the debate, rating Perry’s comment “false.”
According to the independent fact checkers of PoliFact New Hampshire 2010, Perry staffers used inflated data from the Texas Medical Association, which tracks the number of medical licenses, instead of data from the Texas Medical Board, which looks at the actual number of doctors practicing in the state. According to the medical board, there are about 13,000 more doctors in the state than in 2003, not 21,000.
Most of these doctors, according to health care analysts, moved to Texas for the same reason that doctors tend to locate anywhere, to follow population growth. From 2002 to 2010, the population of Texas rose 24 percent, compared to the rate of doctors in the state which rose 24 percent, according to the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, which is funded by healthcare providers. That translates to 1,608 doctors over and above what the state could normally expect.
In fact, according to the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas recruited twice as many physicians in the years before “tort reform,” largely because of laws passed in the 1990s that required insurance companies to pay doctors promptly.
And almost all the doctors that have moved to the state in the last nine years have settled around the larger cities, not in the small towns and rural areas that desperately need medical services, according to the academy.
That’s a far cry from Perry’s claims and just adds to the perception, underscored by facts, that Texas is all gas and no beans when it comes to the topic of health care reform.