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Does medical malpractice law improve health care quality?

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  • Frakes, Michael
  • Jena, Anupam B.

Abstract

We assess the potential for medical liability forces to deter medical errors and improve health care treatment quality, identifying liability's influence by drawing on variations in the manner by which states formulate the negligence standard facing physicians. Using hospital discharge records from the National Hospital Discharge Survey and clinically-validated quality metrics inspired by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, we find evidence suggesting that treatment quality may improve upon reforms that expect physicians to adhere to higher quality clinical standards. We do not find evidence, however, suggesting that treatment quality may deteriorate following reforms to liability standards that arguably condone the delivery of lower quality care. Similarly, we do not find evidence of deterioration in health care quality following remedy-focused liability reforms such as caps on non-economic damages awards.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:143:y:2016:i:c:p:142-158
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2016.09.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Frakes & Jonathan Gruber, 2018. "Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity," NBER Working Papers 24846, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bertoli, Paola & Grembi, Veronica, 2019. "Malpractice risk and medical treatment selection," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 174(C), pages 22-35.
    3. Galasso, Alberto & Luo, Hong, 2018. "How does product liability risk affect innovation? Evidence from medical implants," CEPR Discussion Papers 13036, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Frakes, Michael D. & Frank, Matthew B. & Seabury, Seth A., 2020. "The effect of malpractice law on physician supply: Evidence from negligence-standard reforms," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    5. 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.
    6. Alberto Galasso & Hong Luo, 2018. "When does Product Liability Risk Chill Innovation? Evidence from Medical Implants," NBER Working Papers 25068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Panthöfer, Sebastian, 2016. "Tort Reform and the Length of Physician Office Visits," UC3M Working papers. Economics 23861, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.

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