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Study Debunks Conservative Claim That Tort Reform Attracts More Doctors

By Ian Millhiser  

"Study Debunks Conservative Claim That Tort Reform Attracts More Doctors"

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Even before President Obama took office, the Affordable Care Act’s opponents touted tort reform as a central prong of their health care policy. Texas Gov. Rick Perry even claims that Texas added 23,000 new doctors thanks to a tort reform law he signed in 2003. A new academic study shows that the data simply does not back up this claim, however. According to the study, there is no evidence that tort reform attracted more doctors to Texas:

The bottom line: Our original findings remain correct. There is no evidence that the number of physicians per capita practicing in Texas is larger than it would have been without tort reform. Any effect of tort reform is too small for us to measure, against the background of other, larger forces affecting physician supply, both in Texas and nationally. This ‘non-result’ is broadly consistent with other studies, most of which find that state-level tort reform has a modest impact on physician supply. It also offers a counterpoint to these studies, by demonstrating that the small average effects found in other studies will not reliably appear in any given state, even one which undergoes especially dramatic reform.

Indeed, the paper finds that Texans’ access to primary care physicians actually declined slightly after Rick Perry’s tort reform became law, and that the number of primary care physicians per capita in Texas is significantly lower than in the United States as a whole:

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