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Facts about the state of medical malpractice litigation in Oklahoma

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Facts about the current Medical Malpractice Condition in Oklahoma and U.S.

According to the Federation of Medical Boards, Oklahoma moved to 4th per capita for number of doctors in 2005. This is up from 6th per capita in 2005.
“We are doing fine said Carl T. Hook, M.D., President of PLICO. “The first six months of this year we have a net income of 21 Million, which will be applied to the company’s reserves.” Carl T. Hook, M.D., Journal Record, July 26th, 2005.

Over the last year or so, Hook said he has seen a trend toward more reasonable jury awards, which he attributed to the public education provided by extensive media coverage of lawsuit reform issues. Carl T. Hook, M.D., Journal Record, July 26th, 2005.

Now that PLICO has raised its premiums, other companies have come into the state to compete, but still the company provides coverage to roughly two-thirds of all practicing physicians in the state. Carl T. Hook, M.D., Journal Record, July 26th, 2005.

By the end of 2005, PLICO had actually seen a 36% reduction from the previous two years in defense and settlement cost. This allowed PLICO to outperform projected expectations by 39%.

In December 31, 2005, PLICO had the lowest number of open claims since the early to mid 1980s. Darrin McKelvey, Director of Marketing at PLICO, PLICO Newsletter, 1st Quarter,2006.

The average loss payments per case fell 49% from 2003 to 2005. The pending number of claims has also been significantly reduced from 2004 to 2005 by 35%. Sam Glover, Esquire and Assistant Claims Manager at PLICO. PLICO Newsletter, 4th Quarter, 2005.

According to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, medical malpractice lawsuits are down 60% since July 1, 2003 [effective date of the Healthcare Affordability Act] in our eight largest counties. Tulsa World, October 6th 2004.

According to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the medical malpractice lawsuits have continued to decrease, from 2004 to 2005, there was a 19% decrease in medical malpractice suits filed in the 12 largest counties. According to case data pulled by the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network on total case filings.

In its Rate Survey issue, October, 2006, Medical Liability Monitor found that Oklahoma still has lower medical malpractice rates than Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. Medical Liability Monitor, October 2006, Vol. 31, No. 10.

In 2006, PLICO did not raise its rates and the other two carriers dropped their rates on some coverages and on others had a modest increase (one in which still put them as lower than the other two providers.) Medical Liability Monitor, Rate Survey Issue, October 2006, Vol. 31, Facts about the current Medical Malpractice Condition in Oklahoma and U.S. (pg. 2)

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, www.statehealthfacts.org, Oklahoma’s average payment on medical malpractice claims for 2005 was $242,249, well under the national average of $290,982 per claim. This ranks Oklahoma as 16th lowest per doctor average.

Oklahoma had $41,909,000 in paid medical malpractice claims in 2005 and $16,709,000,000 in personal health care expenditures in 2004. Kaiser Family Foundation, www.statehealthfacts.org.

Total payouts of medical malpractice claims were under one percent
[.251%] of personal health care expenditures.

Malpractice payouts [judgments and settlements] have increased at an average annual growth rate of 4% between 1991 and 2003 and have grown proportionately with health care spending. Chandra, A., Trends, The Growth of Physician Medical Malpractice Payments: Evidence from the National Practitioner Data Bank, May 31, 2005.

The number of paid claims per 1,000 physicians dropped from 25.2 to 18.8 from 1991 to 2003. Chandra, A., Trends, The Growth of Physician Medical Malpractice Payments: Evidence from the National Practitioner Data Bank, May 31, 2005.

According to a recent Public Citizen report dated January 2007:
The number of malpractice payments declined 15.4 percent between 1991 and 2005. Adjusted for inflation, the average annual payment for verdicts declined 8 percent between 1991 and 2005.

Payments for million-dollar verdicts were less than 3 percent of all payments in 2005. In fact, according to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank (NPDB) data, the annual average payment for a medical malpractice verdict has not exceeded $1 million in real dollars since the beginning of the NPDB.

The average payment for a medical malpractice verdict in 1991 was
$284,896. In 2005, the average was $461,524. Adjusting for inflation, however, shows that the average is actually declining. The 2005 average adjusted for inflation is only $260,890 a decline of 8 percent since 1991.

Since the beginning of the NPDB:
o Just 5.9 percent of doctors have been responsible for 57.8 percent of all malpractice payments since 1991, according to data from September 1990 through 2005. Each of these doctors made at least two payments.
o Just 2.3 percent of doctors, having three or more malpractice payments, were responsible for 32.8 percent of all payments.
o Only 1.1 percent of doctors, having four or more malpractice payments, were responsible for 20.2 percent of all payments.

Tort reformers should be held to the fire to tell the real reasons behind 200 pages of changes to our civil justice system. There is not a litigation crisis in Oklahoma. Juries are very conservative and reasonable. Judges are fair and balanced. The reforms of 2003 are working. More reforms are just overkill.