Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity

52 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 21 Nov 2022

See all articles by Michael Frakes

Michael Frakes

Duke University School of Law

Jonathan Gruber

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2018

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Frakes, Michael and Gruber, Jonathan, Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity (July 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24846, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3218097

Michael Frakes (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

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Box 90362
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Jonathan Gruber

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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617-253-1330 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/gruberj/www/

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