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-gynaecologists 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 speciality do not respond to liability risk by relocating or discontinuing their practice,' the authors conclude. 'However, it is possible that they modify their behaviour in more subtle ways that affect access to care.'