Texas has been removed from the American Medical Association's list of "crisis states" less than two years after voters in that state approved a amendment to the state Constitution in 2003 limiting damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, the Chicago-based physicians' group said Monday.
At the same time, the AMA added a new state to the list -- Rhode Island, where nearly half of physicians say the high price of medical liability insurance has forced them to discontinue or consider discontinuing certain services. Rhode Island is one of 20 states facing a crisis in medical liability costs, according to the AMA.
Since Texas voters approved changes in tort laws in September 2003, the five largest insurers all have announced rate cuts expected to produce about $50 million in savings, AMA officials said. They said physician retention and recruitment also has increased, including among specialists.
Jon Opelt, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, a coalition of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies that lobbied for the changes in state law, said about 2,200 physicians have begun practicing in the state since the passage of Proposition 12.
"The Texas reforms have exceeded expectations," he said. "Lawsuit filings against doctors are down and much-needed medical specialists are moving into many underserved areas of the state."
A coalition of consumer and citizen groups opposed the changes, saying they would "shift power that currently lies in the hands of juries and citizens to the control of Texas politicians and lobbyists" and provide "special legal protection" for some of the state's most powerful interest groups.