News: Lack of tort reform does not drive away doctors

October 1, 2008

Lack of tort reform does not make doctors leave the state where they practice.

Anecdotal accounts abound of doctors, fearing lawsuits, leaving states that haven't enacted tort reform and heading to states where they feel protected. But research does not support these stories, according to an account in Medical Liability Monitor (7/2008).

One study that focused on ob/gyns, for example, determined that medical malpractice rates and physician supply were not statistically correlated. Rather, the number of ob/gyns was most highly correlated with per-capita income. Indeed, this correspondence was 20 times stronger than the correlation with insurance rates. The only tort reform that seemed to be significantly related to ob/gyn supply was a cap on noneconomic damages of less than $250,000.

Another investigation considered the behavior of doctors during a period when medical practice insurance premiums shot up substantially. Although from 10% to 20% of most specialties did locate elsewhere, high-risk specialists (such as ob/gyns) were no more likely to relocate than low-risk specialists. Researchers also found that the overall per capita supply of physicians actually grew by 5.8% during the period studied.