MORE DOCTORS IN TEXAS AFTER MALPRACTICE CAPS
October 5, 2007
Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals and bring professional health care to some long-underserved rural areas.
"Doctors are coming to Texas because they sense a friendlier malpractice climate," says Dr. Donald W. Patrick, executive director of the Texas Medical Board and a neurosurgeon and lawyer:
- Licenses were up 18 percent since 2003, when the damage caps were enacted; there has been an even sharper jump of 30 percent in the last fiscal year, compared with the year before.
- The increase in doctors -- double the rate of the population increase -- has raised the state's ranking in physicians per capita from 48th in 2001 to 42nd in 2005, according to the American Medical Association.
- The latest figures show Texas with 194 patient-care physicians per 100,000 population.
- The Texas Medical Board reports licensing 10,878 new physicians since 2003, up from 8,391 in the prior four years.
- It issued a record 980 medical licenses at its last meeting in August, raising the number of doctors in Texas to 44,752, with a backlog of nearly 2,500 applications.
- Of those awaiting processing, the largest number, after Texas, come from New York (145), followed by California (118) and Florida (100).
In some medical specialties, the gains have been especially striking, said Jon Opelt, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, a medical advocacy group: 186 obstetricians, 156 orthopedic surgeons and 26 neurosurgeons.
Adding to the state's allure for doctors, Opelt said, was an average 21.3 percent drop in malpractice insurance premiums, not counting rebates for renewal.
Source: Ralph Blumenthal, "More Doctors in Texas After Malpractice Caps," New York Times, October 5, 2007.
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