Hospital Lawsuits: Comparisons and Causes

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It’s unclear whether Oklahoma hospitals sue more often than those in other states and whether lawsuits are on the rise.

Little state or national data exists that tracks the frequency of hospital lawsuits.

One exception is a study of Virginia hospitals published in June in the Journal of the American Medica Association. It found about 20,000 lawsuits and 9,232 garnishment cases in 2017.

By comparison, Oklahoma Watch’s analysis found more than 6,300 Oklahoma lawsuits in 2017. Oklahoma’s population is less than half that of Virginia, which would indicate Oklahoma hospitals aren’t suing as often as those in Virginia.

Rick Snyder, vice president of finance for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said he wasn’t sure if hospitals tend to sue more in Oklahoma than in other states.

A number of factors could influence the practice, including the demographics of the area served and the hospital’s organizational structure and financial health.

But he said policymakers and voters could potentially reduce the number of lawsuits by expanding the state’s Medicaid program, which would inject millions of dollars into the hospital industry. It would make thousands of uninsured or underinsured Oklahomans eligible for subsidized health care.

“We have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country,” he said. “So that is an issue we are gearing up to tackle right now.”