Rick Perry Claims Tort Reform the Reason for More Doctors in Texas

When Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry visited the Granite State on August 17, 2011 he told a gathering at a “Politics and Eggs” gathering in Bedford that his state of Texas has witnessed an increase in the number of doctors practicing in the state. He cited tort reform legislation as the main reason for the increase. Here’s an excerpt of what the Texas Governor said:
“I’ll tell you what one of the results was,” he said. “This last year, 21,000 more physicians practicing medicine in Texas because they know they can do what they love and not be sued. Some 30 counties that didn’t have an emergency room doc have one today. Counties along the Rio Grande, where women were having to travel for miles and miles outside of the county to see an ob-gyn, for prenatal care and now they have that care.”
That’s wonderful news for the state of Texas if only it was accurate. Politifact, an online investigative journalism site, did some research into Perry’s claims and found them to be false. Politifact rated his comments as “False” based on the number of actual doctors added to the state’s healthcare rolls since tort reform was introduced in the state in 2003 as well as the reasons for the actual slight increase in the number of docs. In actuality, the number of new doctors is around 5,000.
Politifact also couldn’t find evidence that the increase in doctors practicing in Texas was attributable to tort reform since the numbers had already increased prior to tort reform enactment in 2003. The data shows the increase may be attributable to the state’s population growth and not tort reform. Here’s an excerpt of the Politifact article:
“Jon Opelt, executive director of Texas Alliance for Patient Access, a group that supports tort reform and is funded by health care providers, sent us some analysis he had done that filtered out the population effect. Opelt said the higher rate for doctors — 24 percent — translates into an additional 1,608 physicians thanks to tort reform.

At least, that’s what he said when we first spoke to him. Later, after we showed him that the growth of doctors increased at a faster rate in the pre-reform years, Opelt sent us new numbers, saying tort reform brought 5,000 more doctors to the state and the ratio of doctors to residents has never been better. (We found those numbers to be a stretch: The upward revision comes from including administrators, teachers and other licensed doctors who don’t actually treat patients.)

In any event, from the pro-reform vantage point, the most accurate figure is 5,000 — a far cry from 21,000.

But the case for Perry’s statement gets even shakier when you review numbers prior to the new malpractice rules. It turns out that in the nine years before tort reform, the number of doctors grew twice as fast as the population. So Texas did a pretty good job attracting doctors before the law changed.”
Hopefully, those attending the local “Politics and Eggs” realize there was some “spam” served up at the event regarding tort reform and healthcare. Kudos to Politifact for doing the research and checking the Governor’s stats on the state of healthcare in the Lone Star state.