August 15, 2008
From the "National laboratory for bad government" department

John Cornyn bragged to his buddies the other day about how awesome health care is in Texas.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, representing the state with the highest share of population without health insurance, said Tuesday that Texas is a national model for improving access to health care because it limited lawsuits against doctors.

Voter approval in 2003 of Proposition 12, which limited damage awards against doctors in malpractice cases, led to lower malpractice insurance rates, the senator said. In turn, more Texas doctors stayed in the medical field and others flocked to the state from elsewhere, the Republican said.

"We have created greater access to quality health care in Texas," he told the Greater Houston Pachyderm Club, a GOP group. "How did we do it? Well, we passed Proposition 12.

"So, you have to understand what I mean when I say I want to make Washington, D.C., and the rest of our country more like Texas (because), frankly, we know the policies that actually work."

Cornyn, seeking re-election this year, said after the speech that he is not proud that a record-high 26 percent of the state's population has no health insurance. He said he has promoted the creation of federally funded health clinics in Texas as a safety net for residents who lack access to health care.

The Chron takes him to task for that today. It's interesting to me that he'd save that bit for after the speech - I guess he didn't want to be a buzzkill. Regardless, having more doctors is not the same as having more and/or better access to health care. Think Progress rounds up the not-so-bright numbers:

- 25 percent: or 5.6 million Texans are uninsured, the worst rate in the nation.

- 35 percent: of small businesses in Texas offer health insurance.

- 54 percent: of Texans under 65 have employer-sponsored coverage, "8 percentage points below the national average."

- 48th in health care quality and efficiency: on the Commonwealth Fund's State Scorecard "avoidable health costs" dimension - a measure that speaks to efficiency within the health care system.

- 1.8 percent: increase in direct care physicians between 2004 and 2006, "which is slower than it was pre-Proposition 12."

It should be noted that between 2004 and 2006 the population of Texas increased by 4.2% (Excel spreadsheet), so even if you concede that Prop 12 helped bring more doctors into the state, it wasn't nearly enough to keep pace with the overall population growth. And, as the Texas Observer pointed out last year, almost all of those new doctors are going to fast-growing suburbs. Rural Texas, which was promised more doctors as part of the package with Prop 12, has seen no increase at all.

Prop 12 was never about improving access to health care. It was always about sticking it to trial lawyers and helping the insurance companies. Maybe - maybe - if Republicans like Cornyn had ever lifted a finger to do things like broaden CHIP or strengthen Medicare, they could claim that Prop 12 was one piece of a larger package that as a whole made health care more accessible and affordable. But then, if they had done that, they'd have real results to trumpet, instead of the same old rhetoric.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 15, 2008 to National news
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