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Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Sep;29(9):1578-84. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2010.0146.

Low costs of defensive medicine, small savings from tort reform.

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  • 1Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME, USA. jwthomas@usm.maine.edu

Abstract

In this paper we present the costs of defensive medicine in thirty-five clinical specialties to determine whether malpractice liability reforms would greatly reduce health care costs. Defensive medicine includes tests and procedures ordered by physicians principally to reduce perceived threats of medical malpractice liability. The practice is commonly assumed to increase health care costs. The results of studies of the costs of defensive medicine have been inconsistent. We found that estimated savings resulting from a 10 percent decline in medical malpractice premiums would be less than 1 percent of total medical care costs in every specialty. These savings are lower than most previous estimates, and they suggest that the presumed impact of tort reform on health care costs may be overstated.

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