Tort reform a 'failed experiment,' increases Medicare spending

Despite popular belief, placing medical liability caps on states may not curb healthcare costs, according to yesterday's report by advocacy group Public Citizen.

Called "a failed experiment," according to the report, Texas in 2003 set a $250,000 cap on the amount of damages that injured patients could recover from negligent doctors. Since the state implemented tort reform, Texas hasn't contained spending as intended, but instead saw increases in Medicare spending, according to a Public Citizen press release. Per-enrollee Medicare spending in the state rose 13 percent faster than the national average, and diagnostic testing jumped 25.6 percent faster than the national average, according to the report.

"Health care in Texas has become more expensive and less accessible since the state's malpractice caps took effect," said report author Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division.

Physicians have long argued that limitless malpractice damages prevent doctors from practicing medicine effectively and efficiently and even deter them from practicing at all.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office, however, said that isn't the case. "This report shows that the rest of the nation should not hold up Texas as a model. The only winners in Texas are the doctors and the insurance companies."

For more information:
- read the press release
- read The Hill blog post
- check out the report (.pdf)