NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Defensive Medicine: Evidence from Military Immunity

Michael D. Frakes, Jonathan Gruber

NBER Working Paper No. 24846
Issued in July 2018
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

We estimate the extent of defensive medicine by physicians, embracing the no-liability counterfactual made possible by the structure of liability rules in the Military Heath System. Active-duty patients seeking treatment from military facilities cannot sue for harms resulting from negligent care, while protections are provided to dependents treated at military facilities and to all patients—active-duty or not—that receive care from civilian facilities. Drawing on this variation and exploiting exogenous shocks to care location choices stemming from base-hospital closures, we find suggestive evidence that liability immunity reduces inpatient spending by 5% with no measurable negative effect on patient outcomes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24846

 
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