Lawsuit Abuse Watchdog Says Health Care Advertising a Threat to Patients,
Urges Legislature to Take Action
Senate Bill 1189 and House Bill 2251 are scheduled to be heard in committee
AUSTIN, TEXAS — Texas television viewers were inundated by more than 190,000 advertisements for legal services in the state’s three largest media markets over a six-month period last year – far more than for services like pizza delivery or hardware stores – according to a new report by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA). The study examined the prevalence of legal advertising in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, and found that legal services accounted for a staggering $23.4 million in ad buys during the period studied.
“Many of these ads are aggressive and misleading, and it’s clearly gotten out of hand,” said Karen Easterling, chair of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas. “Texas consumers are constantly inundated by advertising that often uses deceptive information to scare people into a lawsuit. There needs to be more transparency, so viewers can understand the facts and motives behind these ads – which is to generate lawsuits that enrich some personal injury lawyers.”
Comparing legal services ads to other common ad categories, the study found that viewers in Houston saw more than 19 lawsuit ads for every pizza ad, while San Antonio viewers saw more than 11 times as many legal ads than ads for hardware stores.
The study was published as the Texas Legislature considers Senate Bill 1189 by state Sen. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway and House Bill 2251 by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake. These bills would require advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician.
In recent years, Texas health care professionals have become increasingly alarmed by the impact that some lawsuit advertisements can have on patient behavior. A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse confirmed that 82 percent of doctors believe that such ads can lead to patients not taking their medications as prescribed. The survey also found that 66 percent of doctors say patients have questioned their recommended course of treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in a lawsuit ad.
“Because this has become a public health concern, it’s time for the Legislature to step in and require greater transparency and accountability,” said D’Anne Buquet, executive director of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “Patients deserve to know the truth about who benefits from these lawsuits. Importantly, patients should talk to their doctor before any decision is made to stop taking a medication.”
“We urge the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1189 and House Bill 2251 to help protect patients from this growing health crisis,” said Buquet. “The health and wellbeing of Texas patients is at stake.”
House Bill 2251 is scheduled to be considered by the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee on Monday, March 25, 2019 and Senate Bill 1189 is expected to be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee next week.
+ + +