You can make these things up — economists do it all the time — but it’s a lot more compelling when they really happen (link added):
An influx of doctors lured to Texas by new limits on malpractice lawsuits has overwhelmed the state board that screens candidates for medical licenses, creating a backlog that forces many applicants to wait months before they can start seeing patients.
Officials said many of the relocating physicians are filling shortages in areas such as Beaumont, where trauma patients previously had to be flown other cities because there weren’t enough surgeons to treat them.
(Italicized part added:)This sounds like great news — more doctors coming back into the system. But who knows? Chances are the plaintiffs’ bar can find a way to spin this as an ominous development — the return of the malpracticers. Now it’s entirely possible that this represents an influx of marginally competent doctors who can’t afford to practice elsewhere because their malpractice premiums are justifiably sky-high. As it is, the article in the Houston Chronicle quoted above says that a simple background check takes 41 days — hence the huge bottleneck — and that more complex histories such as those of veteran or out-of-state doctors will take correspondingly more time. So it doesn’t seem as if the Texas regulatory authorities are lowering the bar too too low.
Indeed, any supply-and-demand interplay where the market is allowed to be distorted by an industry like the insurance business, whose operations seem to defy normal ways of doing business and which is itself hopelessly regulated, is going to be hard to predict.
But in fact, one thing that happened shortly after Texas’s Proposition 12 was passed is that malpractice insurance rates started dropping almost immediately. That’s consistent with reduced financial exposure, but certainly not with an influx of incompetent physicians coming to the “market” (i.e., seeking medical malpractice insurance). The pushmepullyou of the interplay between these things is the sort of thing that makes insurance underwriters such exciting company at a weenie roast, so I won’t even try to have at it.
Again, in any event, this is a stunning example of the invisible hand at work. But surely there is a down side, and not only to med-mal plaintiffs’ lawyers? Of course: Med-mal plaintiffs themselves, who no longer can play in the Texas state court injury lottery. That doesn’t mean other personal injury plaintiffs can’t, unfortunately. But one step at a time.
God forbid anyone reading this or their loved one should be in a position to be seeking damages, economic or otherwise, for medical malpractice. But short of the argument that, well, higher non-economic damages should be available just because they should — or proof, in ten years, that there’s more malpractice in Texas than there was before because of the influx of quack doctors attracted to the free bread crumbs of “easy” med-mal limits — this quacks like a policy that works.