Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity
52 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2022
Date Written: July 2018
We estimate the extent of defensive medicine by physicians, embracing the no-liability counterfactual made possible by the structure of liability rules in the Military Heath System. Active-duty patients seeking treatment from military facilities cannot sue for harms resulting from negligent care, while protections are provided to dependents treated at military facilities and to all patients—active-duty or not—that receive care from civilian facilities. Drawing on this variation and exploiting exogenous shocks to care location choices stemming from base-hospital closures, we find suggestive evidence that liability immunity reduces inpatient spending by 5% with no measurable negative effect on patient outcomes.
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