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Insurance study comes too late for Texas consumers

President's Message

by John M. Gallagher Jr., Esq.


John M. Gallagher, a partner in the Media law firm of Gallagher, Schoenfeld, Surkin & Chupein, P.C., is the new President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

But hope remains in Pennsylvania where insurance companies are trying to limit victims’ rights

(3/16/2005) -- The revelations are coming so fast and furious it’d be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.

As we all know, our legal system does more to protect people than just about anything else in our society.   But the rights and protections it grants have been under sustained and coordinated attack for years. 

And one of the prime examples opponents of our legal system used to show what can - and should - be done was Texas, where they claimed doctors were being forced out of practice because of an ever growing number of lawsuits and increasing awards.

But now we know that claim, like similar ones made here in Pennsylvania, is false.   “Made up out of whole cloth” is about the nicest that can be said about the claim and the campaign to take away legal rights that was based around it.  

In a groundbreaking analysis performed by the University of Texas, researchers found that large medical malpractice verdicts and settlements were not to blame for a rapid increase in insurance premiums for Texas doctors and hospitals.   The study, which examined malpractice claims paid out by insurance companies from 1988 to 2002, found that the number of malpractice payments under $25,000 fell sharply over that period and the number of payments greater than $25,000 stayed stable.  Importantly, total payments to patients in 2002 were $515 million, or 0.6 percent of health care spending, up from $414 million, or 0.8 percent, in 1990.

Unfortunately, this revelation came too late for Texas voters who narrowly approved caps on damages in 2003.  Nor will this new information help the doctors and hospitals that saw double digit increases in their insurance even after caps were passed.


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