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Peggy Venable: Tort Reform? We've Already Done It

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By Peggy Venable
Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 10:57 AM

In his address last week, President Obama said he had talked to some doctors and learned that medical procedures were being done that may not be necessary due to fear of medical malpractice lawsuits, and he entertained the idea of tort reform, saying we could try it in some states with pilot projects.

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But there's no need for a pilot project. Texas enacted malpractice reform years ago. The president would benefit from a phone call to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Texas passed significant tort reform in 1995, and more reforms have been enacted since then. A 2008 study from the Perryman Group found that perhaps the most visible economic impact of the lawsuit reforms are the benefits experienced by Texans who have better access to high-quality healthcare. Doctors and hospitals are using their liability insurance savings to expand services and initiate innovative programs; those savings have allowed Texas hospitals to expand charity care by 24 percent.

The total impact of tort reforms implemented since 1995 includes gains of $112.5 billion in spending each year as well as almost 499,900 jobs in the state. The fiscal stimulus to the state from judicial reforms is almost a $2.6 billion per year increase in state revenue. In addition, these reforms are responsible for approximately 430,000 individuals having health insurance than would otherwise, and there has been an increase in the number of doctors, particularly in regions which have been facing severe shortages.

But there is more. Those the class-action lawsuits that result in hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs getting nothing more than a coupon also provides justice to the ambulance-chasing lawyers who file those suits. If filed in Texas, instead of getting six-figure attorney fees when citizens get coupons, the lawyers who file those bills get paid like the plaintiffs they abuse do -- in coupons.

Peggy Venable is the Texas director of Americans for Prosperity.



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