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Physicians' Fears of Malpractice Lawsuits are Not Assuaged by Tort Reforms

September 2010
Health Affairs, Vol. 29, No. 9
Emily Carrier, James D. Reschovsky, Michelle M. Mello, Ralph C. Mayrell, David Katz

Physicians contend that the threat of malpractice lawsuits forces them to practice defensive medicine, which in turn raises the cost of health care. This argument underlies efforts to change malpractice laws through legislative tort reform. We evaluated physicians’ perceptions about malpractice claims in states where more objective indicators of malpractice risk, such as malpractice premiums, varied considerably.We found high levels of malpractice concern among both generalists and specialists in states where objective measures of malpractice risk were low.We also found relatively modest differences in physicians’ concerns across states with and without common tort reforms. These results suggest that many policies aimed at controlling malpractice costs may have a limited effect on physicians’ malpractice concerns.

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