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Perry Touts Tort Reform, Stem Cells Research at New York Conference

In New York on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry bragged about his home state's many strengths, praising two of his signature health care initiatives — tort reform and stem cell research — in an interview with Steve Forbes.

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NEW YORK — Gov. Rick Perry bragged on Texas' history of tort reform and the state's research into adult stem cell therapy on Wednesday at a conference hosted by Forbes magazine to address issues of cost and affordability in the American health care system.

In an interview with Steve Forbes, Perry said Texas "was called a litigation hellhole” before legislation he championed limited the scope and scale of malpractice lawsuits. “Personal damage lawyers are now one of Texas' exports,” he added.

And he said innovations in stem cell therapy, of which he was a beneficiary in the months before his failed bid for the presidency, are being endangered by federal overreach. 

The Forbes event was part of a multiday conference attended by doctors, insurance industry representatives and hospital administrators. Attendees paid $1,195 to hear a variety of speakers.

One OBGYN in the audience thanked Perry for advocating for tort reform and asked him how to spur similar efforts at the federal level. Long an opponent of federal intervention at the state level, Perry made the case for state-specific reform.

“I’m not sure you could do in D.C. what we did in Texas,” he said. “People in Texas are very different from those in Connecticut or New York.”

Perry said doctors who want to escape lawsuits and the bureaucratization of health care are welcome to move to Texas. He used the example of scientist Doris Taylor at the Texas Heart Hospital, who last year rebuilt a human heart using adult stem cells.

Observers are divided on the effectiveness of Texas’ tort reform initiatives. Perry and other tort reform supporters have argued that the law led to an influx of doctors to the state. Others claim the measure has failed to curb health care costs. 

On Wednesday, Perry was much more animated about his second topic, one closer to his personal experience: the growth of stem cell research in Texas. He said his interest in the field stemmed from his study of animal sciences at Texas A&M University.

“I took four semesters of organic chemistry, and it made a pilot out of me,” he said, to laughter. “But I always maintained an interest in the equine and veterinary side of the medical sciences.”

Perry famously received stem cell therapy for back problems in 2011, prior to his short-lived presidential campaign. Though the governor jokingly advised audience members not to get treatment for back surgery before running for the highest office in the land, he remained exuberant about the state’s biomedical technology prospects — even as he anticipated a regulatory fight with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the state’s ability to supervise new medical research.

Referring to a Colorado stem cell facility the FDA ordered shut down in 2010, he condemned a recent letter sent by the agency to Celltex Therapeutics, which is co-owned by the surgeon who treated Perry.

Invoking the 10th Amendment, Perry argued that Texas has a right to regulate new medical research, and that patients would suffer because of the FDA’s actions.

“There are people whose lives have been improved greatly” by these therapies, Perry said, and the “oversight that we’ve put in place in Texas [is] very sufficient.”

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Rick Perry