Study finds no link between malpractice insurance premiums, tort reform and OB/GYN supply

April 17, 2008

Fairfax, VA - April 17, 2008 - Conventional wisdom within the medical community suggests that dramatic increases in malpractice premiums cause physicians to relocate or discontinue their practices in high-cost states. However, research published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies reveals that most obstetrician-gynecologists do not relocate or discontinue their practice in response to this liability risk.

Researchers led by Y. Tony Yang of George Mason University and Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health investigated the effects of malpractice risk, as measured by insurance premiums and various tort reforms, on the number of OB/GYNs in the United States between 1992 and 2002. The longitudinal research design examined state-year-level data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study found that the supply of OB/GYNs had no statistically significant association with premiums or tort reforms. Most OB/GYNs did not respond to liability risk by relocating out of state or discontinuing their practice. Tort reforms, such as caps on noneconomic damages, did not help states attract and retain OB/GYNs.

"Most practitioners in this specialty do not respond to liability risk by relocating or discontinuing their practice," the authors conclude. "However, it is possible that they modify their behavior in more subtle ways that affect access to care."
-end-
This study is published in the March 2008 issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Y. Tony Yang, LLM, ScD, MPH is Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Law at George Mason University and can be reached for questions at ytyang@gmu.edu.

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (JELS) fills a gap in the legal and social science literature that has often left scholars, lawyers, and policymakers without basic knowledge of legal systems. Always timely and provocative, studies published in JELS have been covered in leading news outlets such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes Magazine, the Financial Times, and USA Today.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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