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Is there empirical evidence for "Defensive Medicine"? A reassessment


  • Sloan, Frank A.
  • Shadle, John H.


Proponents of tort reform applied to medical malpractice argue for change partly on the premise that the threat of lawsuits has made medical care more costly. Using U.S. longitudinal data from the National Long-Term Care Survey merged with Medicare claims and other data for 1985-2000, this study assesses whether tort reforms have reduced Medicare payments made on behalf of beneficiaries and the survival probability following an index event. Direct reforms (caps on damages, abolition of punitive damages, eliminating mandatory prejudgment interest, and collateral source offset) did not significantly reduce payments for Medicare-covered services in any specification. Indirect reforms (limitations on contingency fees, mandatory periodic payments, joint-and-several liability reform, and patient compensation funds) significantly reduced Medicare payments only in a specification based on any hospitalization, but not in analysis of hospitalization for each of four common chronic conditions. Neither direct nor indirect reforms had a significant effect on the health outcomes, with one exception. The overall conclusion is that tort reforms do not significantly affect medical decisions, nor do they have a systematic effect on patient outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Sloan, Frank A. & Shadle, John H., 2009. "Is there empirical evidence for "Defensive Medicine"? A reassessment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 481-491, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:2:p:481-491

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kessler, Daniel, 1996. "Institutional Causes of Delay in the Settlement of Legal Disputes," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 432-460, October.
    2. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark McClellan, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," NBER Working Papers 5466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Danzon, Patricia M., 2000. "Liability for medical malpractice," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1339-1404 Elsevier.
    4. Daniel Kessler & Mark McClellan, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 353-390.
    5. Janet Currie & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2008. "First Do No Harm? Tort Reform and Birth Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 795-830.
    6. Kessler, Daniel P. & McClellan, Mark B., 2002. "How liability law affects medical productivity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 931-955, November.
    7. Beomsoo Kim, 2007. "The Impact of Malpractice Risk on the Use of Obstetrics Procedures," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S2), pages 79-119, June.
    8. Danzon, Patricia, 1984. "The Frequency and Severity of Medical Malpractice Claims," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 115-148, April.
    9. Sloan, Frank A. & Entman, Stephen S. & Reilly, Bridget A. & Glass, Cheryl A. & Hickson, Gerald B. & Zhang, Harold H., 1997. "Tort liability and obstetricians' care levels," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 245-260, June.
    10. Frank A. Sloan & Lindsey M. Chepke, 2008. "Medical Malpractice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262195720, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Paik, Myungho & Black, Bernard & Hyman, David A., 2017. "Damage caps and defensive medicine, revisited," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 84-97.
    2. Arab Naz & Umar Daraz & Waseem Khan & Qaisar Khan & Tariq Khan & Anwar Alam & Irum Mughal, 2013. "Human’s Complexity and Man’s Atrocity: Causes Of Medical Malpractices among Pakhtuns of Pakistan," Asian Journal of Empirical Research, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(3), pages 286-297, March.
    3. Paola Bertoli & Veronica Grembi, 2017. "Medical Malpractice: How Legal Liability Affects Medical Decisions," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp600, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    4. Ity Shurtz, 2014. "Malpractice Law, Physicians' Financial Incentives, and Medical Treatment: How Do They Interact?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 1-29.
    5. Ulrich Matter & Alois Stutzer, 2015. "Politico-Economic Determinants of Tort Reforms in Medical Malpractice," Working papers 2015/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    6. Daniel P. Kessler, 2011. "Evaluating the Medical Malpractice System and Options for Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 93-110, Spring.
    7. Frakes, Michael & Jena, Anupam B., 2016. "Does medical malpractice law improve health care quality?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 142-158.
    8. Congressional Budget Office, 2010. "Selected CBO Publications Related to Health Care Legislation, 2009-2010," Reports 21993, Congressional Budget Office.
    9. Avraham, Ronen & Schanzenbach, Max, 2015. "The impact of tort reform on intensity of treatment: Evidence from heart patients," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 273-288.
    10. Vandersteegen, Tom & Marneffe, Wim & Cleemput, Irina & Vereeck, Lode, 2015. "The impact of no-fault compensation on health care expenditures: An empirical study of OECD countries," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 119(3), pages 367-374.
    11. Matter, Ulrich & Stutzer, Alois, 2016. "The role of party politics in medical malpractice tort reforms," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 17-35.
    12. repec:cbo:report:21993 is not listed on IDEAS


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