Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) argues an obvious but important point: Medical malpractice reform is nowhere in the national debate on health care, and it should be.

Perry offers up his own state as an example of the problems caused by medical lawsuits, and what a state might do about it.

The problem:

Just six years ago, Texas was mired in a health care crisis. Our doctors were leaving the state, or abandoning the profession entirely, because of frivolous lawsuits and the steadily increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums that resulted.

Two thirds of our state’s counties had no practicing obstetricians, and for pregnant women, that meant long trips in cramped cars and higher fuel bills. Sixty percent of our counties had no pediatricians, which often meant delayed, or denied, health care for sick children.

The solution:

In 2003, I declared the medical liability crisis an emergency item, and the legislature responded, passing sweeping reforms that protected the patient, but also shielded doctors and hospitals from unscrupulous trial lawyers eager to make a quick buck at the system’s expense.

The result:

The number of doctors applying to practice medicine in Texas has skyrocketed by 57 percent. In 2008, the Texas Medical Board received 4,023 licensure applications and issued a record 3,621 new licenses.

In all, in just the first five years after reforms passed, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing here for the first time.

(Cross-posted from State House Call.)

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