Republicans in the Legislature continue to talk about lawsuit abuse in Oklahoma and yet they still haven’t provided any evidence that such abuse exists, the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate said Thursday.
“The evidence doesn’t support the claims being made by the Republican leadership in the Legislature. They are simply attempting to manufacture a crisis in an effort to gain attention and a political advantage. They are the ones embarrassing Oklahoma,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson.
Hobson noted that a special 23-member joint House-Senate committee held more than 15 hours of public hearings on tort reform last April and May.
“Not one of the 40 witnesses who testified before the committee offered specific evidence of a case in which an Oklahoma jury made an outrageous award. Maybe they have lawsuit abuse in other states but we haven’t seen it here,” Hobson said.
What came out of the hearings and work by the committee that wrote the tort reform measure, House Bill 2661, was that the state’s largest medical malpractice insurance issuer was facing a financial crisis, Hobson said.
“House Bill 2661 addressed that crisis and we need to give it time work,” Hobson said.
Hobson noted that the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Hospital Association and the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers all supported House Bill 2661.
On its website, the American Medical Association lists 20 ‘states in crisis.’ Those states don’t include Oklahoma.
“The most recognized medical organization in the country says Texas, Arkansas and Missouri are ‘states in crisis,’ but says Oklahoma is not,” Hobson said.
Interestingly, Hobson said, the seven other states listed in the Tuesday advertisement placed by the American Neurological Surgery Political Action Committee in the Wall Street Journal are on the AMA’s list.
He also cited a report in the trade magazine Medical Liability Monitor the shows medical malpractice rates in Oklahoma are lower than in almost every other state in the nation. Only South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota had lower average rates, according to the report which was included in a recent report by the federal government’s General Accounting Office.
“Oklahoma doctors are paying less for medical malpractice insurance than their colleagues across the nation. The American Medical Association says Oklahoma isn’t a ‘state in crisis.’ And nobody has yet to offer a single case in which a so-called run-away jury awarded an outlandish amount of money to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case in our state.
“I renew my challenge to Senators Williamson and Coffee to stop playing political football with health care in our state,” Hobson said.