Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

Justinian Lane's Blog

Justinian's Blog

Looks like Oklahoma doesn’t need any tort “reform” to keep/get doctors

I saw this posted at www.okwatchdog.org

The number of doctors in Oklahoma is increasing rapidly despite claims that doctors are leaving the state because of its legal environment.

Oklahoma had 193 physicians per 100,000 people in 2003, according to American Medical Association statistics. By 2007 the ratio had grown to 200 per 100,000 people.

Doctors fleeing Oklahoma is simply a myth.

In 1998 Oklahoma had 6,412 physicians. By 2007 the number had grown to 7,245, an 11.5 percent increase.

The growth in the number of physicians is an obvious sign that things are working well in Oklahoma.

The state’s leading medical malpractice insurer, doctor-owned Physicians Liability Insurance Co., also is doing well. PLICO is in the best financial shape of its three-decade existence.

The real question for the state’s doctors should be why PLICO is posting record profits while the number of lawsuits has fallen. Lawsuits aren’t the problem — insurance companies such as PLICO are.

From 2003-07 medical negligence filings decreased by 29.7 percent in the state’s 13 most populous counties.

A large body of research shows that severely restricting rights does nothing for health care access or quality and doesn’t save doctors money. Caps on damages disproportionately harm the most vulnerable — the poor, the elderly, minorities and children — and states without caps have a greater physician-to-population ratio than those with caps.

Improving health care should include insurance reform and reducing the 100,000 deaths annually from preventable medical errors. These subjects need to be part of the debate.

Quick Facts:

From 2007-08 Oklahoma physicians’ medical malpractice insurance premiums remained flat. Their rates are among the lowest in the region.
Oklahoma medical malpractice insurers’ payments represent far less than 1 percent of health care expenditures in the state. Even if they were eliminated the price of health care wouldn’t change.

Oklahoma doctors spend an average of 1.7 percent of their practice incomes on medical malpractice insurance, 56.4 percent less than the national average.

Physicians Practice magazine has named Oklahoma one of the nation’s most physician-friendly states.

From 2004-07, 10 Oklahoma counties had no medical malpractice lawsuits. Thirty-nine counties — 51 percent of the state’s total — had fewer than five such lawsuits.

Medical malpractice insurance rates are 9.8 percent higher in states with caps than in states without caps.

Just 3.6 percent of Oklahoma doctors have been responsible for 43.4 percent of all medical malpractice payments to patients, yet doctors of the same specialty pay the same insurance rates.

Inflation-adjusted average medical malpractice payments to Oklahomans declined by 16.4 percent from 1996-2003.

Average medical malpractice payments to Oklahomans have decreased by almost $26,000 since 2004 — from $301,123 to $275,151.

I often see stats that show doctors pay around 2% of their income on med mal insurance… is that so?  And if so, why does anyone listen to doctors complain?  Is it just that the 2% figure is skewed because some specialists pay a lot more?