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Tort Reform and Oklahoma

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I was emailing a friend on tort reform in Oklahoma and here is an excerpt of what I was trying to explain to him.

“Let me try to address this from a new approach. I mean this with all sincerity as opposing views are what makes this country great. I will not argue that I feel very strongly and emotional on the subject as I believe evidence from other states such as Texas illustrate that such reforms have no effect than to eliminate lawsuits all together which deprives citizens of their right to seek redress from the negligence of another.

With that said, if I were to discuss conservatism the philosophy for me would be lesser government, lower taxes, and ACCOUNTABILITY of government to the citizens. From there we can start into what I call Judeo-Christian value issues such as abortion, strengthening of families, reduction of pork, and health care.

Now I believe where tort reform is concerned, the only conservative ideologies that apply are accountability and the argument is often made as to health care. In addressing accountability first, the tort reform that is being sought by republican legislatures in Oklahoma flies in the face of accountability. It seeks to limit liability regardless of size and value of a company. It seeks to tell a jury that we don’t trust you to make a decision on civil cases yet we trust you to decide whether a man should die. It seeks to limit access to the courthouse through purely economic means. Whether we like it or not the practice of law is a business and just for a side note the average lawyers makes hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a doctor in Oklahoma. I could go on, but for time sake I will next talk about health care.

Essentially doctors and/or lobbyist like to use the scare tactics that doctors are leaving Oklahoma in droves and insurance is out of control. That is simply FALSE. I’m going to present actual hard facts:

Oklahoma

“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. PLICO, which insures most Oklahoma doctors, states that “We’re 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.” “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. 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, No 10.”

National

Physicians say caps on non-economic damages will lower malpractice premiums. The two largest insurers of doctors in the country stated before Congress or state legislatures, there is no correlation between caps and rates; rates will not go down. The Congressional Budget Office, General Accounting Office, Columbia University, University of Texas, and the University of Illinois studied caps and their effect on rates and all concluded there is no correlation. Over the past 10 years, malpractice rates rose 12 percent higher in states with caps than without. Insurers have deceived doctors into believing tort reform will provide relief. The truth is: insurance companies are using litigation as an excuse to raise rates. Litigation impacts their rates by less than 2 percent. Where does the money go? AIG, one of the two largest malpractice insurers, raised rates 60 percent in the last three years. In the first two years, its profits went from $326 million to $1.84 billion. The third year, they rose to $10 billion. The Wall Street Journal stated mismanaged pricing and accounting practices are the reason for malpractice premium increases, not claims. Claims actually decreased 1 percent over the last 10 years. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the highest paying occupations in America are doctors. The highest percentage of gross pay for malpractice coverage is 12.4 percent. The lowest is 1.8 percent.
Tort reform won’t help doctors. The evidence is there from 30 states. Doctors and the public have been misled. Oklahoma is in fine shape compared with other states, can’t we place a higher value on our citizens rather than corporations who are driven by profits. If the medical community is in such bad shape then why are new surgical centers and hospitals popping up every day.
I guess the reason conservatives such as myself are sick of this tired rhetoric is because we see our elected leaders, who claim to be conservative, bending to the will of these money driven lobbyist. These guys know better. One the republicans in the senate judiciary committee told me he knew better before he was elected but then during his campaign you start hearing him railing against trial lawyers. Why? Because of money.
I simply want people to look at facts. Not mistruths, half-truths and aberrations but cold hard empirical evidence that proves that Oklahoma republican leaders are lying to the public for money. They seek to sell the rights of Oklahomans for the next election.