Opponents of Issue 4 recently posted a short video on their Facebook page — apparently in an attempt to scare Arkansans about tort reform. The video paints a frightening picture of Texas after tort reform; supposedly, the Lone Star State is now a land where negligent doctors run wild because heroic lawyers are unable to sue them. That view is, quite simply, hogwash.
The video is long on anecdotes and short on substance. It alludes to a few cases in which talking heads picked by the Center for American Progress (the liberal think tank that produced the video) contend that tort reform harmed people in Texas. These stories are certainly touching; some of them may even be true. However, when considering a policy change, it’s best to look at facts, not anecdotes.
One of the advocates in the video says that Texans are “worse off today” than they were before tort reform. For those who want some facts about Texas pre-reform and post-reform, I’d urge you to check out a detailed piece by the Heritage Foundation and the Texas Public Policy Foundation entitled, “Ten Years of Tort Reform in Texas: A Review.” In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s just one of the many ways that tort reform benefited Texans:
The reform bill’s most significant achievements have been increased access to health care and an unanticipated positive economic impact on the Texas economy. By the end of 2013, 10 years and three months after the effective date of HB4, the number of licensed physicians in the state will almost have doubled. It is anticipated that Texas will have somewhere close to 60,000 doctors to care for its citizens, almost twice as many as it had in 2003. The number of physicians in Texas is now growing at twice the rate of the state’s population—a statistic that helps prove the success of HB4’s reforms in increasing access to health care.
Another advocate in the video claims that bringing lawsuits against health care professionals is not merely about compensating one person for injury, but about “mak[ing] healthcare safer for all of us.” That is, a litigious society benefits everyone because it improves overall safety. That claim seems to be, at best, questionable. As we discussed in a recent blog post, there isn’t much difference in lawsuits against poor-performing nursing homes and the best-performing nursing homes:
… there is little difference in the chances of being sued if a nursing home offered quality care or substandard care. Lawsuits under our system appear to be like hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters — they inflict themselves on businesses in a manner that is essentially unrelated to how appropriately the business is running its affairs.
Besides obscuring the facts about Texas, one point the video makes is completely irrelevant for Arkansas voters. The video discusses how Texas changed the standard of negligence in lawsuits involving emergency-room care; it then claims that this change in the law has hurt the state. That is an arguable point, but it is not an argument about Arkansas; Issue 4 does not affect the state’s negligence rules.
I understand that political campaigns often use anecdotes involving sympathetic people instead of discussing real policy. The trial lawyers opposing Issue 4 are pretty good at doing this. However, voters should look at the facts, not at a few isolated stories that may or may not be accurate. The slick video attacking Texas tort reform just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.