Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release:
February 13, 2007
Senator Glenn Coffee
Texas Sees Surge in Doctors Following Passage
of Landmark Lawsuit Reform;
Similar Reforms Needed in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Legislature must enact meaningful, comprehensive
lawsuit reform this year to keep up with states like Texas, which
has seen a surge in the number of doctors applying for licenses
to practice medicine in the lone star state because of a reform
package adopted by Texas voters in 2003, according to a recent news
report in the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
The newspaper reported that since Texas passed its reforms, it
has become a magnet for doctors from states with rising medical
liability costs like Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Conversely, survey
data released last year by the Oklahoma Alliance of Physicians for
Tort Reforms showed that the threat of lawsuits in Oklahoma has
caused nearly one-fifth of Oklahoma doctors to consider leaving
state and 51 percent of physicians to consider early retirement.
“The health, well being and safety of our citizens are at
significant risk. Oklahoma must maintain a competitive advantage
with our neighboring states or we will continue to lose ground.
If the Legislature fails to act on lawsuit reform this year, we
will be jeopardizing the quality of health care for all Oklahomans
– particularly seniors and children,” stated Senate
Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, who is leading
the effort to pass lawsuit reform in the evenly divided Oklahoma
“Too many Oklahoma doctors feel like they have a target on
their backs because our tort laws are tilted so heavily in favor
of plaintiffs and the trial lawyers. We’re literally driving
doctors away out of state. But in Texas, there’s a backlog
on getting medical licenses approved because so many doctors are
applying. That is a ‘problem’ we would love to have
here in Oklahoma,” Coffee said.
Minor medical liability reforms passed by the Oklahoma Legislature
in 2003 and 2004 were struck down recently by the Oklahoma Supreme
Court. The court said the laws were too narrowly focused.
“If current trends continue, Oklahoma could be facing a severe
shortage of doctors. This will have a devastating impact on access
to health care, especially in rural Oklahoma,” stated Sen.
James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa, the co-chair of the Senate Judiciary
“It is critical for the Oklahoma Legislature to enact meaningful,
broad-based lawsuit reform that passes constitutional muster, or
we will continue to be left behind in the race to attract doctors,
control health care costs, and create jobs,” Williamson stated.
State Senator Randy Brogdon, a Republican businessman from Owasso,
said 2007 is the best chance yet to get lawsuit reform through the
Oklahoma State Senate, which is now tied at 24-24 following the
GOP’s two-seat gain last November.
“Many of the liberal old guard senators were joined at the
hip with the trial lawyers, but they’re gone now thanks to
term limits. While the trial lawyers still wield some influence
in the Senate, there are more reformers than there used to. It will
not be easy, but I believe this year is the best chance yet for
us to pass real lawsuit reform and move our state forward,”
SOURCE: Houston Chronicle; January 25, 2007; “Doctors find
a long wait to see patients in Texas; Voter-approved liability limits
led to applicant flood from other states, licensing backlog”.
For more information contact:
Senator Coffee's Office - (405) 521-5636