The Data is In – Tort Reform is Baloney

From Tort reform’s slight impact no shock

It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that a new study found that tort reform didn’t lower health care costs in Texas, at least health care costs associated with Medicare. To a large degree, tort reform is an article of political faith empirically averse to contrary facts.
As the American-Statesman’s Mary Ann Roser reported this week, a study by University of Texas law professor Charles Silver and colleagues from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois looked at Medicare spending in Texas between 2002 and 2009 and found no evidence that capping medical malpractice payouts led to lower health care costs.
In 2003, Texas voters narrowly amended the state Constitution — 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent — to limit payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits. The vote was held on a Saturday in mid-September rather than the usual Tuesday in November because tort reform’s supporters wanted to guarantee a low turnout. It was a shameful but smart political move: Low turnout favored tort reform’s passage.
Proposition 12, as the proposed amendment was known, put a $750,000 total cap on the noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, a jury can award a victim of medical negligence: $250,000 maximum from a doctor and $500,000 from a hospital or other medical institution. It did not limit actual damages — payments to cover lost wages, medical bills, disability and so on.
We tepidly supported the proposition. After all, voters were being asked to limit their rights should they fall victim to medical error. Still, reservations noted, we crossed our fingers in the hopes the amendment would reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums.