Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2007

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 State Senate.

“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 Committee.

“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,” Brogdon said.

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