October 2003 Bulletin

Texas constitutional amendment a victory for Medical Liability Reform Campaign

By Susan Koshy, JD, MPH, Jay Fisher, JD and David Teuscher, MD

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is pleased to announce the passage of Proposition 12 amending the state constitution of Texas. Earlier this year, the Texas legislature passed tort reform capping all physicians’ total liability for non-economic damages at $250,000 per claimant. Claimant is defined broadly to include the allegedly injured person and any other person claiming damages due to the alleged injury. Based upon the overturn of their 1977 reforms in 1988, the physician community in Texas expected another constitutional challenge to this year’s new non-economic cap legislation. Proposition 12 was introduced as a measure to counteract potential legal action by specifically authorizing the Texas legislature to cap non-economic damages in liability cases.

AAOS supports Texas campaign

As part of its Medical Liability Reform Campaign, the AAOS awarded $75,000 to the Texas Orthopaedic Association (TOA). The funds were provided by the AAOS to pass meaningful and constitutionally sustainable tort reform legislation. The TOA and the lead organization, Texans Allied for Patient Access (TAPA), worked a coordinated and disciplined plan leading to passage of the comprehensive HB4 tort reform bill. Upon its passage, the TOA and its coalition partners immediately went to work to educate the public on the need for this constitutional amendment. The Texas public was educated on the effects of the medical liability crisis in their state and the significance of Proposition 12 in protecting their access to continued quality medical care.

The monies provided by the AAOS to the TOA were used in the coordinated statewide public relations effort towards the passage of Proposition 12. The AAOS/TOA funds were especially effective when used as “challenge donations,” by inspiring other medical organizations and Texas specialty societies to match the contributions. The lead organization for the amendment passage, “Yes on 12”, was staffed and coordinated by professional consultants. President George W. Bush, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other legislative leaders played essential roles in this fight.

AAOS members speak up for reform

Texas AAOS members John T. Gill, MD, and David D. Teuscher, MD, served as media spokesmen for the statewide effort, and the TOA under the leadership of President Maureen Finnegan, MD, distributed campaign materials to every member, including posters, push cards, and talking points. Gill and Teuscher, also known in the Texas Capitol as “Batman and Robin,” stated “Now that we have Texas secure we will focus the eyes and finances of Texas on securing reform in other states and the AAOS/Coalition goal of national reform success.”

This significant victory will give Texas physicians available and affordable professional medical liability premiums. The Texas Medical Liability Trust, a company that insures one third of Texas physicians, promised that upon the passage of Proposition 12, it would reduce premiums by 12 percent on January 1, 2004. Additionally, three new professional liability insurance (PLI) carriers have applied to the Texas Department of Insurance to begin writing policies, doubling the current number of options and positively increasing competition.

The AAOS continues its commitment to the passage of federal and state tort reform through its Medical Liability Reform Campaign. Through this campaign, the Association provided a generous contribution to the Florida Orthopaedic Society’s successful effort to pass tort reform in that state and has contributed to tort reform campaigns in New Jersey, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.

The AAOS is also working as part of a federal coalition to pass medical liability reform in Congress. It holds a prominent position and provides a strong voice on the steering committee of this coalition influencing federal policy on the medical liability debate.

Contributions sought

The AAOS medical liability efforts are dependent on the generous support of its members to this campaign. Your participation in this campaign can mean the passage of both federal and state tort reform similar to Texas. We strongly urge each of you to contribute to the Medical Liability Reform Campaign. Personal or corporate
checks can be sent to:

The Medical Liability Reform Campaign
American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 N. River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018-9527

If you have any questions about the state effort or about giving to the AAOS campaign, please contact Robert Fine, JD, CAE, Director, Department of Socioeconomic and State Society Affairs at 847-384-4322, or fine@aaos.org

If you have any questions about the federal effort, contact David Lovett, JD, Director, AAOS Washington Office at lovett@aaos.org

Susan Koshy, JD, MPH, is manager and Jay Fisher, JD, is legislative analyst in the AAOS department of socioeconomic and state society affairs. Ms. Koshy can be reached via e-mail at koshy@aaos.org
David D. Teuscher, MD, is a member of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Campaign Oversight Committee and the Professional Liability Committee. He can be reach via e-mail at sportsdoctor@sbcglobal.net

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