Texas Medical Board Cases Against Doctors Rise 76% in 10 Years
This report by Bill Hethcock of the Dallas Business Journal, Feb 12, 2014, reports that this is a result of the tort reform legislation of 2001. This benefits healthcare professionals due to a lack of aggressive pursuit on the part of the state agency, much to the detriment of patients who have suffered damages. The reform puts the ball in the court of state government who in turn manages poorly in place of the former method where private attorneys would defend the patient’s interests backed by an economic incentive to fuel a case on behalf of the financially depleted patient.
The report reads as follows:
he number of Texas Medical Board enforcement cases against physicians and other health care professionals in the state increased 76 percent between 2004 and 2013, as more patients turned to the board instead of the courts in the aftermath of tort reform.
Cases received by the Texas Medical Board rose to 912 from 519 during that period, statistics compiled by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing show.
The rise shows the impact of the tort reform legislation that passed in 2001, Dallas attorney Bill Chamblee, who often defends health care providers in medical board hearings, told the Dallas Business Journal in an interview.
“Tort reform primarily — not exclusively, but primarily — benefited health care professionals,” he said.
When they duked it out in the early 2000s, opponents of tort reform initially argued that the courts were the only place where the average person could go and receive redress for alleged wrongs by health care professionals, Chamblee said. Tort reform proponents countered at the time that the Texas Medical Board would handle those types of complaints.
“The response to that was that the state board was entirely ineffective,” Chamblee said. “It doesn’t do its job well. It doesn’t investigate the vast majority of complaints that come before it and it doesn’t investigate aggressively.”
Those arguments resulted in broadening of the power of the state board to act and investigate more thoroughly, Chamblee said.
The number of informal settlement conferences by the Texas Medical Board, also called show compliance proceedings, increased by nearly 80 percent between 2004 and 2013 as the medical board began to investigate more cases, according to the statistics compiled by Androvett. The number rose to 752 last year from 420 in 2004.
Once tort reform passed, measures such as a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages took away plaintiff’s lawyers’ financial incentive to pursue cases, Chamblee added.
“Even though a plaintiff’s attorney today might believe there was negligence on the part of a health care provider, the economics aren’t there to pursue it,” he said. “So the plaintiff’s lawyer will tell the client, ‘The only real avenue is to file a board complaint.’”
Texas isn’t alone in this phenomenon. Other states that implemented tort reform, including California, Florida and others, have seen an increase in medical board complaints and investigations as well, said Chamblee, managing partner of Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson.
Although complaints to the medical board are up, they will level off when the full effect of tort reform runs its course, Chamblee said.
The deeper question, he said, is whether the increase in medical board complaints and increased board action, combined with a decrease in medical malpractice lawsuits, have improved the quality of health care in states that have implemented tort reform.
The vast majority of complaints about health care professionals are against doctors, a look at the statistics shows.
In 2013, 818 of the 912 complaints received by the board were against physicians. The remaining 94 were against physician assistants, nurses, surgical assistants and others.