Totally Missing the Point

I have no particular opinion on Texas tort reform.  Certainly something in that state was very broken in terms of crazy, stupid unfair malpractice jury verdicts, but I am not a big fan of setting damage caps as a solution.

Anyway, as part of the great Leftish dogpile on all things Texas, Kevin Drum argues it failed because ... the total percentage of people in Texas with health insurance did not change.

Huh???  First, only the Left believes that the statistic on percentage of people with health insurance means anything when evaluating the health care system.  Percentage insured is more a proxy for the type of jobs in the state and the number of illegal aliens as it is a measure of anything meaningful about health care access or quality.

But second, the whole point of malpractice reform was to bring down insurance rates for doctors and try to keep doctors from leaving the state.  Further, it was a basic fairness issue of trying to deal with large settlements no reasonable person thought were really the fault of the doctor.  So how about stats on malpractice rates, or doctor retention, or doctor satisfaction, or queue times?  He's got nothing.


  1. Maximize Liberty:

    If tort reform successfully lowers the cos of health CARE, more people should want to opt out of health INSURANCE because the price of insurance is set historically, not based on the currrent market. Healthier people would be a large percent of the ones who make that decision at the margin. The healthier people dropping out would tend to raise the average cost to the insurer of those who remain, which would tend to offset the lower cost of health care contributing to insurance rates.


  2. Dan:

    Again, you're labeling a whole group of people as "The Left," as if there were some sort of card they all carry in their wallets and they have secret meetings.

    You are someone I respect, even though I frequently disagree with you. I read your blog because you have interesting ideas that challenge mine, and you argue with logic and not just name-calling. That said, I hope you'll consider toning down some of the labeling I frequently see on your site.

    I'm left of center, but that doesn't mean I see eye-to-eye with Nancy Pelosi or Ralph Nader on all issues (I'm pro-tort reform, which many liberals oppose).

    As I'm sure you know, on both the left and right sides of the spectrum, there are many divisions and different ways of seeing things. I'd imagine even libertarians have differences of opinion and varying levels of commitment to the philosophy, and I expect you'd want someone writing about them to acknowledge that, rather than label them.

  3. NL_:

    It seems reasonable for a state to limit civil punitive damages, just as a state should limit criminal penalties. Leaving such penalties totally open to judge and jury is basically just inviting all sorts of subjectivity and popularity questions. So you can justify it just on fairness grounds.

    But if you want to judge its utility, you'd want to look at per capita number of claims made, settled, arbitrated, and decided, and the amounts paid per claim. The amount paid may not go down but the number of claims may fall; or the number of claims doesn't fall but the amount paid might.

  4. gadfly:

    Dan said:

    "Again, you’re labeling a whole group of people as “The Left,” as if there were some sort of card they all carry in their wallets and they have secret meetings."

    This WaPo story says that a group exists called the "Democracy Alliance" and then of course there is the "Shadow Party." Both of these groups have roots and are financed and directed by George Soros and friends, who make the Koch brothers look like paupers.

  5. Dan:


    I'm left of center, and I've never heard of the groups you cite. I certainly don't consider myself part of them, and have no feelings good or bad about Soros. But the same sort of labeling goes on everywhere. I've heard lots of warnings about the Koch brothers representing an evil cabal of businesspeople trying to take over the country on behalf of corporations.

  6. Sam L.:

    This guy wants to complain. He did.

    And Dan, you may be left of center and not a part of these groups, but they're a face of the left, and you aren't.

  7. Doug:

    Dan, how do I know where "left" ends and "center" begins? How far from "center" are you? Can you see "right" from there? Is there some sort of coordinate system or a political GPS beam locater that I can purchase at Best Buy? A secret decoder ring? Do I have to take some sort of test to pinpoint my location on this map? Can you point me to some keeper of such definitions so that in the future I can accurately hurl my political invectives and not upset you so much?

    If a simple "left" or "right" gets you so riled up, then you should be so kind as to provide some accurate definitions of them so Coyote won't hurt your feelings in the future.

  8. Mark:

    This is just another attempt to use meaningless statistics to prove something. Sort of how the Left uses "life expectency" or "infant mortality" to PROVE that the European health care system is better than the US. Apparently, lefties like Kevin Drum believe that the immediate result of health care tort reform would be increased levels of health insurance coverage. This should be a long term effect, ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, but not a necessary condition.

  9. Dan Smith:

    I got my MD degree in 1975. During the next generation, the number of expensive, unnecessary medical tests increased exponentially. The threat of malpractice was one (not the only) driver of this. Ironically, the presence of health insurance increrases the liklihood that a physician will order morer expensive tests "just to rule out rare conditions." We've all known unlucky doctors who made a diagnosis that turned out wrong or had an unpredictable bad outcome and got sued. The practice of electronic fetal monitoring in labor has never been shown to make a difference in outcomes, but hospitals want it done as a defense against malpractice claims that could surface as late as 18 years later.
    I doubt we can get the genie back in the bottle.

  10. Maximize Liberty:

    I agree with Dan Smith.

    My wife works in a medical practice. The patients who are most likely to have tests run on them that she believes are least necessary are the ones on Medicaid and Medicare. The worst ones are the cases who come in because they are bored and the doctor's visit costs them nothing, while having an affliction gives them somone to talk to and something to talk about.