September 09, 2014

One Texas doctor who doesn't know causal correlation — do Big Media check on this?

Dr. Howard Marcus, lying with statistics.
(Somebody alert Mark Twain.)
Note even if it were a tapeworm and bit him in the stomach. (He's an internist, hence the riff on the old joke.)

From a news release:
The Texas Medical Board licensed a record 3,994 new physicians  for the fiscal year that ended last month. 
The board licensed 400 more doctors this year than last, said Austin internist Howard Marcus, M.D, chairman of Texas Alliance For Patient Access. 
“The number of new physicians applying for a Texas license also reached an all-time high,” said Dr. Marcus, “tallying 12% more than last year’s previous record high,” he said. 
The state’s fiscal year begins in September and ends in August. Nearly every month was a record setter. September, the first month of the fiscal year, was the only month that did not produce a record number of new applications for that given month, said Marcus. 
Texas has averaged licensing 3,254 new physicians each year since the passage of lawsuit reforms 11 years ago.

“The state medical board is now licensing twice as many doctors per year than in the medical crisis years before lawsuit reforms were enacted,” said Marcus.

Tort "reform" had nothing to do with that, at least nothing that's provable. (It also didn't reduce doctors' insurance rates that much.)

Statistical correlation does not imply causal correlation. Between that, loose p-values on medical research and other things, this is why I sometimes hesitate to call doctors "scientists." Marcus needs to read XKCD if he cares, which he doesn't, as I note below.

What probably did cause the increase?

Uhh, Texas population growth?

Texas' population was 22.1 million in 2003. It's now about 26.7 million. Or 20 percent more than 11 years ago.

Of course, since Marcus has been writing columns for Texans for Lawsuit Reform since 2006, and the Texas Alliance for Patient Access is an Astroturf group, he's not exactly a disinterested person when it comes to implying causal correlation exists where it probably doesn't. (He's also been touting this new physician growth every year, meaning this con game is nothing new, and doing similar on things like out-of-state physician recruitment.)

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