OK-Murphey proposes alternative to malpractice suits

by Erin Boeckman

Rather than pursue allegations of malpractice through the court system, an Oklahoma legislator has filed a bill suggesting patients prepare for possible negative outcomes with insurance.

Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, filed HB 1018, which would provide an income tax deduction equal to the expense incurred for the purchase of negative outcomes insurance, which provides insurance against the potential negative outcome of a medical procedure. In the event of medical malpractice, the insurance would allow a patient to make an immediate claim for recovery of damages, according to a House news release. The decision to litigate would then be up to the insurance company.

“Negative outcomes” insurance is a unique approach to medical tort reform, Murphey said in a news release. For patients, the insurance could help them receive quick compensation for medical malpractice, he said. Meanwhile, it also could provide a free market alternative to aid physicians who face the high cost of medical malpractice insurance, thus helping to drive down the cost of medical services, he said.

“I think this legislation would be a significant step in reducing incentive for those promoting ‘jackpot justice’ legal actions against Oklahoma physicians,” Murphey said in a news release.

A member of the insurance industry and a recently re-elected member of the House brought the matter to Murphey’s attention, according to the news release. Murphey said Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, urged him to pursue the legislation, which was modeled after a similar proposal made by a Texas congressman.

A physician himself, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 3076 in 2005. The Freedom from Unnecessary Litigation Act of 2005 would have allowed a tax credit for insurance purchased to cover the costs of a negative outcome from surgery, including negative outcomes caused by physician malpractice, according to the Library of Congress’ legislative tracking Web site. It would also exclude from gross income medical malpractice awards granted in binding arbitration. After being introduced, the bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it has remained.

In the congressman’s news release, he noted the same benefits as Murphey. Paul said the bill would provide an effective means of ensuring that those harmed during medical treatment receive fair compensation while reducing the burden of costly malpractice litigation on the health care system.
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