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State's largest malpractice insurer claims it's debt-free

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For the past few years, the leading advocates for changes in the criminal justice system have been doctors and health care organizations, claiming that numerous frivolous lawsuits are:
" driving up costs,
" putting them out of business or
" making them move to Texas.

The organization leading the charge is Physicians Liability Insurance Co. Owned by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, PLICO is the largest insurer for doctors practicing in Oklahoma. By 2003, the company fell into debt due to large payouts for lawsuits filed against its doctors. PLICO officials said defending the cases nearly sent the company into bankruptcy.

But, recently, the company announced a turnaround in finances, claiming it had dug itself out of a $143 million deficit in about two years.

DISAGREEMENT
The announcement prompted this response from Hugh M. Robert, executive director of Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety: "A recent report from (PLICO) "¦ is one of many examples that illustrate the gross exaggeration of the medical malpractice condition in Oklahoma. This severely undermines claims by legislative leaders "¦ that medical malpractice reform is needed at the expense of (patients') rights."

When asked to respond to Robert's comments, Dr. Carl Hook, president and chief executive officer of PLICO, said a statement is forthcoming.

"The Oklahoma State Medical Association is preparing a response of factual information to be explanatory on all the issues that were brought up," Hook said. "The facts they (the consumer and patient safety center) used were erroneous or they didn't use any." "Scott Cooper

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