One of the reasons given for so-called "tort reform" is the claim doctors are heading out of Oklahoma because of skyrocketing insurance costs due to frivolous lawsuits.
However, few numbers show evidence of this mass exodus. Some reports show just the opposite.
According to the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure & Supervision, the number of doctors licensed to practice in the state has gone up every year since 2001. Last year, 8,447 doctors were licensed in the state.
The American Medical Association reports the number of physicians practicing in Oklahoma has gone up every year since 1996. In 2005, nearly 7,000 doctors had an office in the state, up 14 percent in the past decade.
"It is "¦ important to (realize) that some of those doctors who are still on the (books) have stopped providing the complex services which patients need, i.e., delivering babies, so even though they may still be here, there is still a loss of access to needed care because of the loss of service rather than the loss of a doctor," wrote Jack Beller, a board member with Physicians Liability Insurance Co., the largest insurer of doctors in Oklahoma.
One Oklahoma Insurance Department report states that during 2005, insurance companies spent more than $16 million in defense costs on claims for which the companies were not found liable.
"This to me is the smoking gun," said Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations for The State Chamber. "This says it more than anything else. We have too many claims being filed by people who shouldn't be filing claims or lawsuits."
However, that same Insurance Department report showed that no punitive damages were awarded in 2005. "Scott Cooper