Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Texas consumers and taxpayers suffer after malpractice "reform"

Conservatives tout caps on malpractice awards as a good medicine for the health care system and for bringing down health costs. However, a new report by the consumer organization, Public Citizen, shows that many health care outcomes in Texas got worse after 2003 when that state capped non-economic damages in malpractice cases.

From the report
  • Medicare spending in Texas has risen far faster than the national average. Per-enrollee spending for Medicare’s two main programs ranked second-highest in Texas among the 50 states in 2009. In 2003, Texas ranked seventh. In light of the steep reduction in litigation that has occurred in Texas since 2003, these figures contradict the theory that medical malpractice litigation is driving health care costs.
  • Medicare spending specifically for outpatient services in Texas has risen even more steeply compared to national averages.
  • Premiums for private health insurance in Texas have risen faster than the national average.
  • The percentage of Texans who lack health insurance has risen, solidifying the state’s dubious distinction of having the highest uninsured rate in the country.
The report gives evidence that doctors and insurance companies benefited, but those benefits didn't get passed on to consumers or to taxpayers generally.