2:08 PM EST
Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX

Mrs. HUTCHISON. Exactly. And let me tell you what it has done in Texas and something we could do, and I think we would have bipartisan, 100 percent support in this body because that would be reform that would help health care.

Since medical malpractice and tort reform has been passed in Texas, over 7,000 new physicians have flooded into our State--a 7,000 increase. The reason? Tort reform. Since passed just 5, 6 years ago, physicians in Texas have saved $574 million in liability premiums, and their liability rates have been cut an average of 27.6 percent, almost a 30-percent cut in premiums.

What has this done? Today in rural counties, the number of obstetricians has increased by 27 percent. Twelve counties did not have one obstetrician before this was passed, and now they do; 24 counties had no emergency room physicians, and now they do; and 58 counties, in addition to that, have added one more.

Rural counties are the ones that have suffered the most, and every State in this Union has rural counties--every one. They are the ones who are hurt the most. Yet the Medicare cuts will take $135 billion out of rural hospitals' ability to serve Medicare patients. There is no medical malpractice reform unless, of course, in a huge bipartisan effort and gesture we can adopt the Ensign amendment which we are offering to try to make this a bipartisan bill that can work.

We have seen from Senator Ensign's charts that Democrats have supported limits on lawyer fees so that we would be able to cut back on the frivolous lawsuits that have been hampering our ability to cut the costs in Medicare.

I appreciate so much that Senator Ensign is offering this amendment because Texas can show us that this will work. It would be meaningful reform. It would cut the costs and make health care more available and, most important, it will give patients the opportunity to have doctors in their rural communities who will not practice today because their liability premiums are so high they cannot afford to stay in medicine and give this care to those rural patients. That is what we need.