Insurance Commissioner Tells Clubs ‘Defensive Medicine' Raises Rates

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By Wayne Trotter

There’s “no doubtâ€? that health premiums are higher because doctors are practicing “defensive medicine,â€? Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner told a Shawnee audience this week.

But, Commissioner Kim Holland acknowledged, the effect of that is hard to quantify.

Holland appeared Tuesday before a joint civic club luncheon sponsored by the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs along with the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was held at Shawnee Middle School.

She devoted most of her talk to an explanation of what her office is and does but made the comments about defensive medicine at the end of her speech when Bob Seikel asked her what effect a cap of medical malpractice suits might have.

“There’s no doubt that as a result of defensive medicine that health insurance prices are up,â€? Holland said, explaining that repeated lawsuits “cause our physician community to cover all their bases.â€?

As a result, she said, doctors may be ordering procedures that might not be “totally necessary.�

The insurance department keeps track of claims in the medical area, she said, and 70 percent of those wind up being dismissed. Even so, she added, each claim probably costs between $20,000 and $25,000 in legal fees. That information has been provided to the governor’s office, she said.

Holland, the first woman elected as insurance commissioner in Oklahoma history, said she wants to make her office “the first place you call and the last place you have to call� if and when insurance problems arise.

Most agents in the state are “highly professional,â€? she reported, but said the system isn’t perfect.

Much of Holland’s presentation amounted to a pitch for small businesses to make certain they are properly covered. She said group health insurance is the single most expensive component of an insurance package but also leads to the most frustration. She said estimates show that about 30 percent of health insurance premiums go to cover those who don’t pay for insurance.

“We need to look toward some form of universal coverage,� Holland commented.
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