Why Doctors Are Heading for Texas

Normally I write about Healthcare IT but today’s Why Doctors Are Heading for Texas article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Here’s why:

Today obstetricians, surgeons and other doctors might consider reviving the practice. Over the past three years, some 7,000 M.D.s have flooded into Texas, many from Tennessee.
[Why Doctors Are Heading for Texas]
Corbis
Sam Houston.

Why? Two words: Tort reform.

In 2003 and in 2005, Texas enacted a series of reforms to the state’s civil justice system. They are stunning in their success. Texas Medical Liability Trust, one of the largest malpractice insurance companies in the state, has slashed its premiums by 35%, saving doctors some $217 million over four years. There is also a competitive malpractice insurance industry in Texas, with over 30 companies competing for business. This is driving rates down.

The result is an influx of doctors so great that recently the State Board of Medical Examiners couldn’t process all the new medical-license applications quickly enough. The board faced a backlog of 3,000 applications. To handle the extra workload, the legislature rushed through an emergency appropriation last year.

Now many of the newly arriving doctors are heading to rural or underserved parts of the state. Four new anesthesiologists have headed to Beaumont, for example. Meanwhile, San Antonio has experienced a 52% growth in the number of new doctors.

The article goes on to cite many other benefits of tort reform in Texas, especially in Asbestos cases. It’s a great example of how a simple change in the rules governing physicians and malpractice can fix problems like:

  • Lack of medical professionals (Doctors want to practice in a state where medicine is more important than lawyers)
  • High healthcare costs (when malpractice insurance premiums go down, so do healthcare costs)
  • Availability of healthcare support for charity care (when healthcare costs go down, hospitals can afford to do more charity work)

I grew up in Houston, TX but now live in Washington DC. I still have fond memories of Texas and really do enjoy seeing stories like this. Perhaps some of the presidential candidates should increase their support of tort reform.

I loved what the author, Mr. Nixon, said at the end of the article:

Texas recently became home to more Fortune 500 companies than New York and California. Things are trending well for the Lone Star State. Anecdotally, we can see that while doctors are moving in, trial lawyers are packing up and heading west. They’re GTC — Gone to California.

Author

Shahid N. Shah

Shahid Shah is an internationally recognized enterprise software guru that specializes in digital health with an emphasis on e-health, EHR/EMR, big data, iOT, data interoperability, med device connectivity, and bioinformatics.