Reform in Health Care : Care Is Better in States Without Barriers to Justice

by Texas Watch Foundation

Jan. 16, 2008

Full report available at Texas Watch, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization

We’ve all heard the argument made by insurance companies and the medical industry: So-called tort “reform” leads to better health care.

Well, guess what? It ain’t so.

The truth is that patients in states with arbitrary restrictions on access to the legal accountability system are more likely to have worse overall health care.

Using the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund’s independent ranking of state health system performance, access and quality, Texas Watch compared states that restrict patient access to the courthouse with those that do not. In every category, it is clear that patients in states that restrict patients’ legal rights fare worse than those in states that allow patients to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Here are the key findings.

  • 69% of states with the poorest overall health system performance (bottom quartile) limit patient access to the courts
  • 79% of states with the worst access to health care limit patient access to the courts
  • 84% of states with the poorest quality of care limit patient access to the courts

Special interests continue to applaud Texas as a model for the nation when it comes to imposing restrictions on patients’ legal rights. Sadly for Texas patients, the plaudits are misplaced. More than four years after the passage of patient restrictions on access to the legal system, Texas health care continues to suffer. Texas ranks 49th in overall health system performance, 46th in health care quality and 51st — dead last — in patient access to health care.