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June 25, 2004

Republicans Lie... About Tort Reform

By Andrew Dobbs

If you didn't work in the Legislature during the 78th Regular Session, consider yourself lucky. I was interning at the time for Rep. Jim McReynolds (D-Lufkin), a moderate/populist East Texas lawmaker who was having a helluva time with tort reform. You see, in rural areas doctors are some of the most respected, most trusted people in town on everything from health to politics. Lawyers aren't quite as prominent. As a result we were inundated with literally hundreds of form letters, calls and emails urging Jim to vote for "tort reform" that put caps on lawsuits. They claimed that East Texas didn't have enough doctors any more because malpractice insurance rates were too high, thanks to those blood-sucking trial attorneys and their frivolous suits. Both houses passed a constitutional amendment and voters narrowly passed Prop 12- the tort reform amendment so insurance rates should be going down, right? I mean, tort reform was sold to us as the great white hope to stem those lawsuits and lower premiums. Is that the case?

Of course not.

In an Op-Ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram John Cummings, a Tarrant County trial attorney, gives some great data on the truth of the situation:

Since damage caps became effective in September 2003, the number of medical negligence lawsuits filed in Texas has dropped dramatically. But in that same time, most of the malpractice insurers in the state have raised their rates.

G.E. Medical Protective, a company that insures 20 percent of the state's physicians, recently increased its rates by 10 percent and changed its products to avoid regulation by the Texas Department of Insurance. This was in response to the state's denial of its previous request to raise rates by 19 percent.

The Joint Underwriting Association asked for a 35 percent rate increase. The largest malpractice insurer in the state, TMLT, agreed to lower its rates by 12 percent, but it had raised its rates more than 100 percent in the previous two years (...)

U.S. insurance companies saw their profits explode to almost $30 billion in 2003 -- a ten-fold increase from the previous year -- yet rates continue to rise.

That's right- lawsuits are down and premiums are up, as much as 35% in some places. Profits are increasing 1000% a year and yet they claim that lawyers are the problem.

We knew this would happen though. Any reasonable observer looked to California, who passed the law our tort reform bill was based on 15 years ago, and could see that their insurance premiums were as high as anyone's and were growing just as fast. The fact of the matter is that tort reform had absolutely nothing to do with doctors, it had everything to do with helping the insurance companies out. This is the same industry that has raised homeowner's rates so much so quickly that many Texas families cannot afford the necessary coverage anymore. Have Perry or his minions kept their 2002 promise to do something about this situation? No, of course not. These companies are bleeding Texans dry at home and at the doctor's office for the sole reason of lining their own pockets. Texas desperately needs some new leadership and Democrats need to express to voters just how raw of a deal they really are getting.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at June 25, 2004 11:48 AM | TrackBack


Boys and came stop last minute travel, boys different into left.

Posted by: Camille at September 8, 2004 05:58 PM
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