Republicans everywhere, including presidential hopeful/George W. Bush doppelganger Rick Perry, like to claim that tort reform, and malpractice reform in particular, is a great way to reduce health care costs while attracting more doctors to states that have lower damage caps and stronger malpractice suit deterrents. In August, Rick Perry proudly stated:
"This last year, 21,000 more physicians practicing medicine in Texas because they know they can do what they love and not be sued. 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 and now they have that care." –PolitiFact.com
It sounds really great. But unfortunately, Perry’s numbers don’t add up at all. As PolitiFact found, Perry’s 21,000 is actually the number of new licensed doctors in Texas, not the number of new practicing ones. Based on practicing ones, the increase is only actually 12,788. Lest you think this still sounds like a lot, please note that almost all of this increase is consistent with the simple population increase in Texas during the same period: From 2002 to 2010, the population of Texas grew by 20 percent, while the number of practicing doctors grew by only a slightly higher 24 percent.
Jon Opelt, executive director of Texas Alliance for Patient Access, a group that supports tort reform and is funded by health care providers, sent us some analysis he had done that filtered out the population effect. Opelt said the higher rate for doctors — 24 percent — translates into an additional 1,608 physicians thanks to tort reform. –PolitiFact.com
But wait. If you think that’s still a lot, get a load of this:
[T]he case for Perry’s statement gets even shakier when you review numbers prior to the new malpractice rules. It turns out that in the nine years before tort reform, the number of doctors grew twice as fast as the population. So Texas did a pretty good job attracting doctors before the law changed. –PolitiFact.com
In other words, the rate of doctor-to-patient increase in Texas was actually a lot better before tort reform was instituted in Texas. Add this truth to the significantly higher costs of health care in Texas compared to other states, despite the dramatic reduction in malpractice suits in Texas since malpractice reforms came around, and tort reform starts to look like a real disaster for health care.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…well, you know.