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Medical Liability, Managed Care, and Defensive Medicine

  • Daniel P. Kessler
  • Mark B. McClellan
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    Because the optimal level of medical malpractice liability depends on the incentives provided by the health insurance system, the rise of managed care in the 1990s may affect the relationship between liability reform and defensive medicine. In this paper, we assess empirically the extent to which managed care and liability reform interact to affect the cost of care and health outcomes of elderly Medicare beneficiaries with cardiac illness. Malpractice reforms that directly reduce liability pressure -- such as caps on damages -- reduce defensive practices both in areas with low and with high levels of managed care enrollment. In addition, managed care and direct reforms do not have long-run interaction effects that are harmful to patient health. However, at least for patients with less severe cardiac illness, managed care and direct reforms are substitutes, so the reduction in defensive practices that can be achieved with direct reforms is smaller in areas with high managed care enrollment. We consider some implications of these results for the current debate over the appropriateness of extending malpractice liability to managed care organizations.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7537.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7537.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2000
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    Publication status: published as Kessler, Daniel and Mark McClellan. "Malpractice Law And Health Care Reform: Optimal Liability Policy In An Era Of Managed Care," Journal of Public Economics, 2002, v84(2,May), 175-197.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7537
    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 P. & McClellan, Mark B., 2002. "How liability law affects medical productivity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 931-955, November.
    2. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-77, June.
    3. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark McClellan, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," NBER Working Papers 5466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Cutler David M. & Sheiner Louise, 1998. "Managed Care and the Growth of Medical Expenditures," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-41, January.
    5. Kessler, Daniel & McClellan, Mark, 1996. "Do Doctors Practice Defensive Medicine?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 353-90, May.
    6. David M. Cutler & Louise Sheiner, 1997. "Managed Care and the Growth of Medical Expenditures," NBER Working Papers 6140, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Daniel P. Kessler & Mark B. McClellan, 1999. "Is Hospital Competition Socially Wasteful?," NBER Working Papers 7266, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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