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Dr. Lancer Gates Image Source: KC Star
Dr. Lancer Gates
Image Source: KC Star

I don’t know Lancer Gates.  Apparently he is a physician in the greater Kansas City area.  According to his online bio, he is a D.O. who “enjoys spending time with his family, running, vacationing in his native Pennsylvania, and being involved in Missouri politics.”

Ahh… politics.

Like I said, I don’t know Lancer Gates . I don’t even really care what his politics are.

I just know his facts are wrong.

Dr. Gates just penned an opinion piece in the Kansas City Star calling for unconstitutional restrictions on the right to jury trial to be reinstated.  But Gates has the facts all wrong.

[Ed. note:  I just wrote about this.  Literally.  Just a few hours ago I published a post about Rep. Eric Burlison’s proposal to re-institute unconstitutional damage caps the same day I’m writing this.  Normally, I wouldn’t post two messages this similar.  But this is an important issue.  And while these gentlemen are entitled to their own opinions, they aren’t entitled to their own facts.]

The crux of Gates’ argument is that, without unconstitutional damage caps, doctors will flee the state and patients will be harmed.

“In worrisome numbers, physicians fled the toxic condition here and moved their practices across the state line into Kansas….  [After tort reform was enacted in 2005], physicians returned to Missouri to practice.  In the three years leading up to tort reform, Missouri lost 225 physicians to the lawsuit crisis.  but since the first full year of reform, more than 1,000 additional physicians are providing care within our borders.”

– Lancer Gates, D.O. via The Kansas City Star

Doctors never fled the state of Missouri.  Gates’ claim is unquestionably false.

Statistics from the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts:

Missouri Doctor Registrations Data: Mo. Bd. Reg. for Healing Arts
Missouri Doctor Registrations
Data: Mo. Bd. Reg. for Healing Arts

You can see from the data that there was no mass exodus.  In-state renewals for physicians actually jumped 4.23% from the previous reporting period in 2004 – just before the “boiling point” claimed by Gates.

The broader numbers also show there was no exodus of doctors before tort reform and no mass return of doctors once unconstitutional restrictions were enacted.  This is a true fact based on the per capita number of doctors and also for the per capita number of doctors in so-called “high risk” specialties that include neurosurgery and Ob-Gyn.

Doctor-Patient Ratio MO - Vidmar Doctor-Patient Ratio MO - High Risk - Vidmar

Not only are Gates’ facts untrue for Missouri, they’ve been disproved across the country.

“Before Texas adopted tort reform in 2003, proponents claimed that physicians were deserting Texas in droves.  After tort reform was enacted, proponents claimed there had been a dramatic increase in physicians moving to Texas due to the improved liability climate.  We find no evidence to support either claim.”

Does Tort Reform Affect Physician Supply?  Evidence from Texas

Even staunch tort reform advocate Ted Frank of the Manhattan Institute agreed that the Texas study “substantially undermines the empirical case for the conventional wisdom that Texas’ 2003 reforms against medical malpractice lawsuits attracted more doctors to Texas.”  Frank agreed the report is so damning he is “going to stop claiming that Texas tort reform increased doctor supply without better data demonstrating that.”

One medical malpractice insurance company produced an info-graphic that demonstrated unequivocally that there is no medical malpractice crisis.  It showed that nearly half of all medical malpractice payouts came from only 5 states (Florida, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, and New York).  It also showed that overall medical malpractice payments have been declining steadily since 2003.  The data from the insurance company also showed that “runaway juries” or “excessive” jury awards are not part of any alleged “crisis”.  Only 5% of all medical malpractice awards in 2012 resulted from a verdict at trial.  More than 90% of all malpractice payments were made voluntarily by the defendant doctor, hospital, or health care provider by way of settlement.

The Missouri Constitution ensures that “the right to trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate….”  [Mo. Const. Art. 1, sec. 22(a)].  Dr. Gates wants to undo the Missouri Constitution].

Dr. Gates is trying to save himself a little bit of money.  But if he wants to save himself some insurance money, he needs to talk to his malpractice insurer, not mess with the constitution and undermine fundamental liberties.

Dr. Gates is wrong.  He’s wrong on the data.  He’s wrong on the facts.  He’s wrong on the law.  He’s wrong on the policy.

© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.



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