As I embark on my first blog, I want to address the issue that is constantly in the forefront of the political landscape of Oklahoma. Whether you call it tort reform, legal reform, or more appropriately lies for fund raising reform, politicians in Oklahoma have emblazoned the public with inaccurate, false, and deliberately misleading statements.
So what is the truth? Politicians are constantly seen promoting this “tort reform” as the top priority in the state. However, have you ever seen a politician cite a single non-biased stat that actually supports the imposition of tort reform? The answer is unequivocally NO. Politicians do not cite facts because such facts do not exist. They rely on fear and innuendo.
What are some examples of this fear and innuendo? Let’s start with the myth that doctors are leaving the state because of malpractice rates. The numbers state just the opposite. Though lawsuit reform has often been heralded as a means to prevent doctors from leaving Oklahoma to practice in other states, the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision shows that the number of licensed and practicing medical physicians has remained fairly constant over the last few years. While there were 5,397 licensed physicians practicing in Oklahoma in April 2004, there were 5,343 in April 2003 and 5,363 in April 2002. Combine this with the fact that the head of Oklahoma Alliance of Physicians for Tort Reform told the Daily Oklahoman this year that he realizes Oklahoma malpractice insurance is relatively cheap and that Oklahoma juries do not render excess verdicts and you have the truth. However, I will preface his statement that he said the problem is the fear for an excess verdict. There, in the word “fear” lays the heart of what these false supposed leaders are telling us.
So the next question arises as to why politicians are pushing tort reform. The answer, as in many things, is simply money. This is a great fundraising tool for politicians. They have the highest earners in Oklahoma (doctors) giving money over left and right thinking they will save a few bucks. They use business leaders as subsidiaries to their campaigns because once again they have created fear in this community. Remember, workers compensation is a totally different system than the tort system.
Ladies and Gentleman, the issue is about money. It’s about selling your rights so that in the end an insurance company can make more money. Don’t fool yourself to think that your local doctor will drop his prices and you will save a great deal of money. No where in the United States has that happened. Don’t sell your rights and more importantly the rights of children and the elderly under a concept founded on lies and mistruths.