News: No link between malpractice rates, tort reform, and ob/gyn supply

Medical malpractice insurance premiums may fall in the near future.

Medical malpractice insurance premiums may be expected to fall in the near future (see preceding story), but dramatic increases in the past have been linked anecdotally to ob/gyn relocations from high-premium to lower-premium states. A new study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (3/2008) reveals, however, that most ob/gyns do not respond to liability risk by relocating out of state or discontinuing their practice.

The longitudinal study, which analyzed data between 1992 and 2002 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, examined the effects of tort reforms as well as malpractice premiums on ob/gyn supply. Investigators found that neither the number of ob/gyns per 10,000 births nor the number of ob/gyns per 100,000 women of childbearing age was significantly associated with a state's malpractice premium levels. Similarly, data analysis showed that the presence of liability-limiting tort reforms do not significantly affect a state's supply of ob/gyns.

These results, the authors concluded, are at odds with assertions of an exodus of ob/gyns from states with high and rapidly rising insurance premiums. They also undercut suggestions that caps on noneconomic damages and other tort reforms help states attract and retain high-risk specialists.