(Oklahoma City) – The Democrat leader of the Oklahoma State Senate challenged his Republican counterparts to stop playing politics with the health care of Oklahomans and give the newly enacted tort reform legislation a chance to work.
“This is politics, pure and simple. The most extensive lawsuit reform measure in our state’s history became law less than two months ago and already Senators Williamson and Coffee are saying it won’t work. As with any measure of this magnitude, we have to give it time to effect change,” the Lexington Democrat said.
Hobson said the Republicans’ short-sightedness is evident in the fact that they have called for junking the tort reform measure passed in May in response to last week’s decision by the Oklahoma Hospital Association to ask the Oklahoma Insurance Department to place the Hospital Casualty Company in receivership.
Hospital Casualty Company was founded 27 years ago by OHA and is the largest provider of medical malpractice insurance for hospitals and nursing homes in Oklahoma. Saying it was unlikely that policy renewals would provide enough money to complete a recapitalization plan, HCC leaders voluntarily allowed the company to come under the direction of the Insurance Department on July 22.
“Tort reform and the failure of HCC aren’t related. Even if Republicans had succeeded in completely closing the doors of the court house to everybody but giant corporations, HCC still would have had to go to receivership,” Hobson said.
The Senate President Pro Tempore praised the leadership of the Oklahoma Hospital Association for doing what was best for the hospitals and nursing homes in the state rather than playing politics like the Republican leaders of the State Senate.
“It had to be a very difficult decision, but I have no doubt that HCC President Craig James and the other leaders of the Oklahoma Hospital Association did what they believed was best for their members.
“It’s obvious their top concern is the health of the thousands of Oklahomans served by the dozens of hospitals and hundreds of nursing homes insured by HCC,” Hobson said.
Republican leaders in the Senate apparently have different priorities, Hobson charged.
The Senate leader pointed out that Republicans literally made health care providers the poster children for tort reform, but when the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Hospital Association and the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers agreed to a compromise tort reform measure, the Republicans still opposed it.
“The votes in favor of House Bill 2661 were votes for the most sweeping lawsuit reform bill in the history of our state. The votes against it were votes for the status quo. Senators Williamson and Coffee both voted against the bill and now it’s obvious that they did so in order to continue to use the health care as a political football,” Hobson said.