Report From the States

Texas Doctors Protest Skyrocketing Medical Liability Premiums

"Hundreds of doctors and other medical professionals closed their offices last spring to protest malpractice lawsuits that have led to skyrocketing insurance premiums.

"Many of them descended on the Hildago County Courthouse for a 'day of awareness.'

"Dr. Jose Igoa, a 47-year-old psychiatrist who held a picket sign, says he paid $28,000 for medical malpractice insurance last year - three to four times what he paid five years ago. Now, he can't find a renewal policy at all.

"Like other doctors here, he says he has been the target of frivolous lawsuits that take time out of his practice and are emotionally stressful...the problem is getting worse....'We understand that when we cause some damage we want people to be fairly compensated. But when it comes to legal changes the way we practice medicine.'

"Up the coast in Nueces County, where 63 percent of the doctors had claims filed against them in the last 13 years, doctors planned simultaneous activities to show support...

"Since 1999, seven of 17 malpractice insurance carriers serving Texas have either left or gone belly up, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.

" 'Over the last couple of years, we have been paying out more in claims than we have taken in in premiums,' said Julie Pulliam of the National Insurance Association. 'Claim costs have gone through the roof. The primary reason is the cost of lawsuits. That's why insurers are very supportive of tort reform.' "

Lynn Brezosky, The Tampa Tribune, April 8, 2002.

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2002;7(3):100. Copyright©2002 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)