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Texas Watch Update
Will they be Promises Kept?
Who Wins?...Who Loses?
During the 2003 legislative session and recent political campaigns, state leaders and lobbyists made many promises to Texans. Constitutional and consumer rights were traded for special interest protections, promising great benefits to Texas voters.
These promises must be monitored closely—watching to see whether they translate into true benefits for voters—or free windfalls for the insurance and healthcare industries that promoted them.
The radical changes in Texas civil justice laws demand dramatic and tangible evidence of lower medical malpractice insurance rates, lower healthcare costs, improved healthcare access, improved doctor availability and improved medical care quality. The children and families who are harmed by future medical malpractice and find themselves with severely restricted legal rights deserve real answers, not an insurance shell game.
Health Care Costs
Promises Made: “ Proposition 12 is about keeping Texas medicine affordable and accessible,” Governor Rick Perry (“Perry stumps for malpractice caps,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 8/21/03)
“The people of Texas have voted to limit frivolous lawsuits, and families will now have greater access to affordable health care,” [Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst] said. (“Texans pass Prop. 12 in statewide election,” Houston Chronicle, 9/14/03)
Can These Promises Be Kept?
Although it is still too early to evaluate, an independent study, released in January 2004 by the Congressional Budget Office, documents that caps on damages, such as those passed by the 2003 Texas Legislature, will have no meaningful effect on lowering health care costs for Texas families.
According to the CBO:
• “[Caps] can have only a small direct impact on health care spending…[and] the “likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small.” (“Limiting Tort Liability for Medical Malpractice,” Congressional Budget Office, January 8, 2004.)
• The estimated savings in health care costs would be less than 0.5% - even if malpractice costs are reduced 25 to 30 percent. (“Limiting Tort Liability for Medical Malpractice,” Congressional Budget Office, January 8, 2004.)
As healthcare costs and health insurance costs rise at astounding rates, voters accepted Proposition 12's promises of relief. Without question, Texas families need and deserve the relief they were promised.
Increased healthcare fees, charges and out-of-pocket expenses for Texas families in 2003. (“Texans to pay $2.7 billion more under new state laws,” Texas Comptroller press release, August 27, 2003.)
Combined rate hikes in employer sponsored health insurance plans in 2002 and 2003. (“Number of Americans Without Health Insurance Rose in 2002,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, October 8, 2003.)
Number of Texas residents without health insurance in 2002; highest percentage throughout the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau)
True Reform Needed
After more than 30 years of so-called tort “reforms” for the benefit of the insurance industry and other special interests at the expense of Texas families, workers, patients and small businesses. Already strapped families are paying more for insurance, receiving fewer protections and battling for their rights more than ever.
Texans are looking for true reforms that resolve the insurance crisis gripping the state, hold the insurance industry accountable and provide meaningful legal protections.