January 2006 MedBytes: Tort Reform on the Web


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It's been more than two years since voters approved Proposition 12. This month's cover story looks at how tort reform has changed the liability climate in Texas. More carriers are operating in Texas, and patients' access to care has improved because more physicians are willing to take on high-risk specialties. Below is a sample of sites on the World Wide Web that are somehow connected to tort reform.

Texas  Medical Association
Medicine faced a number of tough battles with health plans, business, allied health professionals, hospitals, and others on a wide variety of issues in the Texas Legislature last year. But after two special sessions, physicians and their patients emerged largely victorious. The Texas Medical Association Web site,  www.texmed.org, provides physicians with the latest public policy updates and contains an online grassroots action center. The site's  Professional Liability Insurance Reform page under the Governmental Affairs banner includes a complete history of the tort reform movement in Texas and information on how Proposition 12 benefits physicians and patients.

Texas  Medical Liability Trust
For 25 years the Texas Medical Liability Trust (TMLT) has provided strong, stable medical coverage at responsible prices for its physicians. Pioneered by TMA physicians in 1979, TMLT has grown to be the largest medical liability insurance carrier in the state. Its site, www.tmlt.org , has links to the TMLT Risk Management Education Site, a staff directory, and a press page with the latest TMLT information. Site visitors can also access online TMLT publications, which include a bimonthly risk management newsletter, a reference handbook to understanding the legal doctrine of "informed consent," and a publication that uses real-world examples to solve some of the most common patient relation issues, including appointment management, complaint resolution, and treatment of noncompliant patients. Visitors can request a free copy of a study of 25 years of closed claims. The book features 46 closed-claim studies, representing the most common allegations in claims across many medical specialties.

TEXPAC, the political arm of TMA, is the united voice for more than 40,000 Texas physicians and 8,000 alliance members. Organized in 1962, TEXPAC is one of the oldest and largest bipartisan political action committees in Texas and ranks first in size and influence among other state medical society PACs. The committee's site,  www.texpac.org , contains information about issues surrounding the latest Texas legislature, a system that provides information about elected officials and the districts they represent, and the latest TMA grassroots action. Also included is a list of TEXPAC's current board of directors and upcoming events.

Texas   Alliance for Patient Access
The Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA) is a coalition of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health care professionals, and medical liability insurers. An instrumental player in the passage of Proposition 12, TAPA aims to improve access to health care by passing meaningful and sustainable medical liability reforms.  The coalition has put together a lobbying team to defend its gains, block harmful legislation, and pass new initiatives that will benefit all Texans. Its site,  www.tapa.info, provides information about members of the lobbying team, a list of coalition members and board members, what TAPA opposed in the 2005 Legislature, and what policies it champions to improve health care access. In its newsroom is information about the latest developments regarding tort reform and other legislative issues.

Texas Department of Insurance
The recorded history of insurance law in Texas and the predecessors of the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) date back to 1876. In 1874, the 14th Legislature passed a law regulating the life and health insurance business in the areas of company formation, activities, and coverage. Since then, TDI has worked to fulfill its legislative mandate to regulate the insurance industry while protecting the people and businesses that are served by insurance. The department's site,  www.tdi.state.tx.us , gives physicians prompt pay rule changes, an update about workers' compensation reform, and information regarding workers' compensation networks. Physicians also can find out what liability insurance entities are licensed by TDI or are statutorily authorized to write medical professional liability insurance. TDI regulates these companies except as noted. There also is a glossary of common insurance terms, plus access to TDI's online annual reports, which are presented to the governor and legislature.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email erin.prather@texmed.org . Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  


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