Monday, September 24, 2012

Texas Licenses Record Number of New Doctors, Emerges from Liability Crisis

The Texas Medical Board licensed a record 3,630 new physicians in the fiscal year that ended last month. The record total is 70 percent more than the board issued in 2001 and 2002; the low water marks during Texas’s medical liability crisis. It’s also the fifth new record since passage of the 2003 reforms.

Texas has long been a net importer of physicians and this past year was no different. Seventy-three percent of the state’s newly-licensed physicians are graduates of medical schools outside of Texas.

In the nine years since the passage of reforms Texas has licensed an average of 3,135v new physicians each year. This is 772 more than the average of 2,363 in the nine years preceding reforms; a gain of 33%.

“All Texans can thank our 2003 liability reforms for a huge chunk of these new physicians who are caring for our sick and injured neighbors all over the state,” said Texas Medical Association President Michael E. Speer, M.D.

A just-released study by noted economics professor Stephen Magee of The University of Texas at Austin tracks both total new licensees as well as in-state active physicians before, during and after the state’s liability crisis.

Today, nine years after Texas lawmakers passed far-reaching medical lawsuit reforms, the per- capita number of Texas direct patient care physicians stands at an all-time high. Professor Magee’s research shows that the number of doctors that left active practice more than doubled from 2000 to 2005, the last year of the crisis. That number dropped dramatically after the crisis, he said.

“Essentially, the number of doctors that treat patients flattened during the crisis but then took an upward trajectory four years after the passage of reforms,” according to Magee. “The delayed physician growth response is consistent with what we see in other tort reform states.”

Other notable findings from the study:
  • The number of high-risk specialists practicing in Texas has grown nearly 18 percent faster than the state’s population from 2005-2011.
  • The ranks of pediatric sub-specialists, emergency care physicians, cardiologists, vascular surgeons and anesthesiologists have outpaced the state’s population growth.
  • As a whole, the state’s most medically underserved counties have shown greater physician growth than they saw during the crisis period.
For research purposes, Professor Magee arranged all Texas counties from the most medically underserved to the most served. He then bundled those counties into ten groupings, with each group accounting for about 25 counties.

Using those groupings, he found that the Texas medical liability crisis reduced direct patient care physician growth in the bottom 80 percent (the bottom eight of the ten groupings) of Texas’ most medically underserved counties. “Following the 2003 reforms, direct patient care physician growth improved in six of the eight underserved county groupings,” Professor Magee said.

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