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Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality?

89 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2014 Last revised: 10 Sep 2016

Michael Frakes

Duke University School of Law

Anupam B. Jena

Harvard University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 4, 2014

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.

Keywords: malpractice; health care quality; deterrence; defensive medicine

JEL Classification: I18, K13

Suggested Citation

Frakes, Michael and Jena, Anupam B., Does Medical Malpractice Law Improve Health Care Quality? (January 4, 2014). Journal of Public Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374599 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2374599

Michael Frakes (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Anupam B. Jena

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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