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How Liability Law Affects Medical Productivity

  • Daniel P. Kessler
  • Mark B. McClellan
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    Previous research suggests that "direct" reforms to the liability system -- reforms designed to reduce the level of compensation to potential claimants -- reduce medical expenditures without important consequences for patient health outcomes. We extend this research by identifying the mechanisms through which reforms affect the behavior of health care providers. Although we find that direct reforms improve medical productivity primarily by reducing malpractice claims rates and compensation conditional on a claim, our results suggest that other policies that reduce the time spent and the amount of conflict involved in defending against a claim can also reduce defensive practices substantially. In addition, we find that "malpractice pressure" has a larger impact on diagnostic rather than therapeutic treatment decisions. Our results provide an empirical foundation for simulating the effects of untried malpractice reforms on health care costs and outcomes, based on their predicted effects on the malpractice pressure facing medical providers.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7533.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7533.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2000
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    Publication status: published as 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.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7533
    Note: AG HC LE
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Kessler, Daniel & McClellan, Mark, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 353-90, May.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "The Effect of Age at School Entry on Educational Attainment: An Application of Instrumental Variables with Moments from Two Samples," NBER Working Papers 3571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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 432-60, October.
    4. Dubay, Lisa & Kaestner, Robert & Waidmann, Timothy, 1999. "The impact of malpractice fears on cesarean section rates," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 491-522, August.
    5. Frank A. Sloan & Lindsey M. Chepke, 2008. "Medical Malpractice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262195720, June.
    6. Henry S. Farber & Michelle J. White, 1991. "Medical Malpractice: An Empirical Examination of the Litigation Process," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(2), pages 199-217, Summer.
    7. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark McClellan, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," NBER Working Papers 5466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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 115-48, April.
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