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Lawsuit Immunity – GOP and OSMA Wants More of Your Money

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The hallow echoes of “lawsuit reform” of which I rather call “civil amnesty,” are echoing among Oklahoma doctors seeking to pad their wallets through some hypothetical reduction in their malpractice rates. That’s right, this amnesty sought by doctors is not for patients but eliminates all lawsuits regardless the degree of negligence. It’s not about those they treat but about their already substantial wallets. Its all about an attempt to save lets say a $1000.00 from their $300,000.00 per year income.

In the latest Journal Record, the Oklahoma State Medical Association (“OSMA”) is calling for “immediate action on providing lawsuit reform to help the state’s medical professionals.” In a release ripe with inaccuracies and flat out lies, doctors are calling upon the Oklahoma government to spend thousands of dollars in an economically depressed time for a “special session” for enactment of civil amnesty. That’s right, let’s spend tens of thousands of dollars getting legislatures to the state capitol to enact some needless “reform” that only helps insurance companies. By the way, what insurance company are we talking about?

Oh it’s Physicians Liability Insurance of Oklahoma (“PLICO”). Who is PLICO? According to its website, PLICO is a “captive” insurance company formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of OSMA. That’s right people, PLICO is owned by the OSMA which is all the medical doctors (M.D.) in Oklahoma. The PLICO Board consists of Oklahoma physicians who are elected by the OSMA House of Delegates. PLICO is managed, controlled and directed by its physician Board. Now we dig in deeper, Physicians want to limit the exposure of their company, which they own via stock interests, without regard to the public health or accountability.

The Journal Record goes on to expose other non-conservative statements by Oklahoma republican senate leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, who stated in the article that "It’s no secret that lawsuit reform is a top priority of the Senate majority, and access to top-quality medical care in our state is the primary reason," Coffee said. "We believe we need to do all we can keep our best and brightest medical professionals, particularly OB and ER physicians, on the job in Oklahoma. Lawsuit reform will continue to be a top priority no matter when we convene." But here’s the dirty little trick by using those code words of babies and ER care. I doubt Mr. Coffee really knows but Oklahoma already has caps in place for OB and ER care. Its $300,000.00 for non-economics in OB and ER cases.

Heck, Dr. Beller who is leading the charge for civil amnesty and more caps, stated in 2004 that the current caps were enough. In fact, in the Insurance Journal, Dr. Beller is quoted as saying: "’I think the caps will encourage settlements without a doubt,’ said Dr. Jack Beller, an orthopedic surgeon in Norman and the immediate past president of the OSMA. ‘It has been shown nationwide that a reasonable cap goes a long way toward stabilizing the medical liability market … and that’s our hope.’”

So let me say this once again, what is occurring in Oklahoma is not conservative, it’s the farthest thing from conservatism. I’m a die hard conservative who has always been taught that conservatism has its roots in accountability. Apparently that view is not shared by our Republican leaders in this state who view conservatism via the mantra “pay back those who spent money getting you elected, i.e. the doctors and State Chamber.” In the process let’s secretly hurt the most vulnerable Oklahomans with fictitious reforms that amount to simple civil amnesty for their sufferings. Remember, these are the same people whose last reform bill would have allowed a drunk driver who killed your spouse and children to not pay a dime if you had a million dollars in life insurance and the drunk driver had a million dollar policy. What these Republicans proposed was allowing the drunk driver a “set-off” for any insurance monies paid. Yep, they are really conservative and care about you! Oh way, the you must be insurance companies.