From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser
For Immediate Release
November 13, 2002
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124
Fraser Co-Authors Legislation on Medical Malpractice
AUSTIN -- State Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has co-authored legislation aimed at boosting access to affordable, quality health care by curbing skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums.
Key components of the bill would: cap non-economic damages, such as those awarded for pain and suffering, at $250,000; limit attorney contingency fees; lengthen the notice period to 90 days before a health care liability lawsuit may be filed; and clarify the statute of limitations for filing malpractice cases.
"Access to quality health care is declining as a result of high medical liability premiums," Fraser said. "My goal in supporting this legislation is to ensure that all areas of the state -- both rural and urban -- have quality health care."
"Rural Texas already has problems attracting health care providers," Fraser said. "High medical liability premiums only increase the reasons for health care provided to leave under-served areas -- that's why this bill is so important to Senate District 24."
District 24 comprises 21 counties: Bell, Blanco, Brown, Burnet, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Erath, Gillespie, Hamilton, Kerr, Kimble, Lampasas, Llano, Mason, McCulloch, Menard, Mills, San Saba and Taylor.
Fraser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, said he expects the legislation, Senate Bill 12, to be referred to that committee when the session begins in January.
Fraser served on the Senate Special Committee on Prompt Payment of Health Care Providers during the past interim with the primary author of the bill, state Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairman of the special committee.
The committee for several months has been examining the problems associated with the increase in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Among its findings:
- Medical liability insurance rates have increased by 20 percent this year.
- The number of insurance carriers has decreased from 17 in 1999 to four currently.
- About 6,000 doctors may be without coverage in the coming year due to insurers leaving the Texas market. In addition, as many as 500 nursing homes in Texas have no liability coverage.
- On average, jury award tripled to $3.5 million between 1994 and 2000.
- Texas doctors and hospitals spend $1 million a day fighting frivolous lawsuits.
- 85 percent of all medical malpractice suits are closed without payment to the plaintiff.
- 57 percent of medical liability settlement or award go the lawyers, and 43 percent go to the patients.
Fraser said additional steps could also taken to help curb medical malpractice lawsuits, including broadening the powers of the state Board of Medical Examiners to discipline health care providers, and close a loophole in state law that allows plaintiffs to "courthouse venue shop."
"If we don't close this loophole, those judge with strong political views supported by plaintiffs' lawyers will continue to allow multi-plaintiff lawsuits to be filed without proving that all of the plaintiffs have properly established venue."