Texas Legislature Launches Heated Debate On Medical Malpractice Reform.

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The Bulletin Frontrunner (Texas)

The Dallas Morning News (2/20, Yu) reports, “The Texas Legislature formally launched debate Wednesday over whether to place a cap on medical malpractice lawsuit judgments, with proponents calling it the last hope to rein in rising physician costs and opponents saying it’s a misguided solution that hurts the poor. In the first hearing open to the public, the House civil practices committee, chaired by Rep. Joe Nixon heard testimony from all walks of medical life, from physicians and personal injury lawyers to AARP members and consumer advocacy groups.” The debate focuses on a bill that proposes to “cap noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits at $250,000, reduce attorney contingency fees and give juries information about other revenue, such as Social Security and disability pay, that claimants already received.”

The Houston Chronicle (2/20, Elliott) reports, “Gov. Rick Perry has declared medical malpractice reform an emergency issue for lawmakers to consider early in the session. The number of insurance companies writing medical liability policies has dropped from 17 to four since 2000.” Doctors said the legislation would “reduce health costs and improve health care,” but consumer group representatives said that “insurance reform, not lawsuit reform, is what’s needed to reduce premiums.” And some plaintiffs’ lawyers also said the damage caps would “discriminate against women, minorities and children.”

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (2/20, Kirsch) reports, “Harvey Rosenfield of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights told a House panel that limiting damages to $250,000 would probably not solve the insurance crisis that Texas physicians want lawmakers to address.” He added, “If you want to lower premiums, you’ve got to regulate rates.” The Star-Telegram notes, “He was the author of Proposition 103, which was approved by California voters in 1988 and froze insurance rates. His comments came in testimony before the House Civil Practices Committee on House Bill 3, which would limit damages in malpractice lawsuits.”

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