Texas sets record for physician-to-patient ratio
By Jon Opelt
Texas’ physician workforce is growing at a record pace, far greater than the state’s impressive population growth. The Texas Alliance for Patient Access cites the state’s 2003 landmark medical liability reforms as a primary catalyst.
The ratio of Texas patient-care physicians for every 100,000 people has grown uninterrupted for 10 straight years, according to data released by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“Doctors new to the state have told us they came to Texas because of our more hospitable legal climate,” said Jon Opelt, Executive Director of Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “Protection of the reforms will further the growth while weakening the reforms will slow or reverse those gains,” he said.
Opelt noted that Texas’ physician workforce expanded at more than double the rate of the state’s population over the past decade. This development is significant given the growth in population and is critically important for improving access to medical care, he said.
Primary care is the largest specialty in the state, numbering 19,097 practitioners, according to the Texas Medical Association. During the past 10 years, the ranks of Texas primary care physicians grew 1.7 times faster than the state’s population.
Research suggests that patients with high-risk conditions, Hispanics, patients in rural areas, the uninsured and low-income families have been the greatest beneficiaries of the reforms and would be most affected by any weakening of the state’s medical liability laws, Opelt said.
Jon Opelt is the Executive Director of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access, a statewide coalition of doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and physician liability insurers.