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Fred Thompson believes that Federalism is the key to meaningful tort reform. He writes that, rather than relying on Washington to solve the problem of malpractice abuse, we should look to the states. To support this proposition, he cites the Texas experience:
Only a few years ago, Texas was losing doctors fast. Rising malpractice insurance rates were fueling what analysts called a crisis. In some parts of the state, emergency wards were closing and residents were facing long trips for even basic medical care.
And physicians were not alone in their flight from Texas. All but four insurance companies had stopped selling malpractice insurance to doctors. Then, in order to avoid a complete medical meltdown, the state passed serious tort reform legislation:
Texas passed Prop 12, capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits to $750,000. $250,000 of that applied to physicians. There were no limits put on damages for medical expenses or economic expenses such as past and future lost income.
And the results of this legislation?
Now 30 insurers are doing business in the Lone Star State and others are moving into the market. Rates have fallen on an average of more than 20 percent. Malpractice lawsuits have fallen 50 percent.
But this is not, as the enemies of tort reform would have it, a gift for “rich doctors” and “corporate fat cats.” It is a major victory for the patients, who will continue to have access to basic medical care in their own communities.
Thompson is right. Considering that congress is now controlled by a party in thrall to the trial lawyers, the primary hope for serious tort reform lies with the states. Let’s hope they take up the banner.
+ May 2007
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