Defensive Medicine is Real and Raises Health Care Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jonathan Gruber PhD
Department of Economics, E52-434
MIT
Cambridge, MA 02139

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There is a large literature trying to estimate the extent of ‘defensive medicine’ by looking at what happens when it gets harder to sue and/or you can win less money. But there have been no studies of what happens if you just get rid of the right to sue. That’s what we have with active duty patients treated on a military base.

The main finding is that when patients can’t sue they are treated about 5% less intensively. Much of the effect appears to arise from fewer diagnostic tests.

Response: What should readers take away from your report?

Two things:

1) Defensive medicine is real. If patients can’t sue, doctors treat them less intensively.

2) The impact of defensive medicine on U.S. heatlh care spending is limited. We find only a 5% reduction in costs when patients can’t sue.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Trying to extend this work to other settings would be great, if possible.

Citation:

Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity

Michael D. Frakes, Jonathan Gruber
National Bureau of Economic Research
NBER Working Paper No. 24846
Issued in July 2018

Jul 23, 2018 @ 5:13 pm

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