The top insurance regulator in Texas says Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that limits noneconomic damages for doctors in medical malpractice cases to $250,000, has "stabilized" insurance premiums and triggered renewed competition.
In a letter earlier this month to the Texas Medical Association, Jose Montemayor, commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance, said 10 carriers have "recently taken concrete steps to enter" the marketplace since voters approved the measure last September.
Despite this trend toward increased competition, however, only one of the five major insurers in the state has agreed to lower rates. What's more, the commissioner noted, General Electric Medical Protective, one of the state's largest medical malpractice insurers, will increase premiums by 10% on June 1, transferring its business to an unregulated risk-purchasing group that does not require state approval for premium hikes.
"If the company would have waited for four to six months and relied on the reforms of Proposition 12, they would have reached a different conclusion and not felt the need to move its policyholders to a purchasing group," Montemayor wrote in a two-page letter to medical association CEO Louis Goodman.
Meanwhile, the Washington-based Health Coalition on Liability and Access says 82% of Americans believe that their access to healthcare services is being threatened by excessive litigation and higher insurance costs for their doctors. In a poll released today, about 71% of 1,000 Americans surveyed said they favor laws to place "common-sense" limits on noneconomic damages, according to the organization, whose members include the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, which has lobbied for a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages.
The poll does not frame questions to include specific figures or ranges for noneconomic damages. Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based consumer group that opposes such limits, dismissed the poll, saying the HCLA "constructs questions in order to reach a particular conclusion."
"You'll never find them phrasing a question where people are being asked to give up their rights to damages if their child has been catastrophically injured," Doroshow said.