Because doctors spend less time on the job when their perceived risk of being sued for malpractice rises, those lost hours mean some 7 million people nationwide must find someone else to treat them.
That's the crux of a new study published this week by Brigham Young University economist Mark Showalter, who hastened to add that he and his research colleague, Eric Helland, are "not spouting any party line" regarding current proposals to cap malpractice awards nationwide.
The cost of malpractice insurance is one component of the ongoing national debate about health care reform, and the new study points out the non-monetary cost to patients, who have fewer available health care options when doctors cut back on their hours.
The researchers found that doctors reduce their workload by almost two hours per week when expected liability risk increases by 10 percent. That decline in hours nationwide equals one in every 35 physicians retiring without a replacement, Showalter said.
The study came out last week in the Journal of Law and Economics. Showalter and Helland, who previously served on the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, used government survey data from the mid- and late 1980s to make the projections contained in the study.
Showalter said two surveys involving thousands of physicians — conducted five years apart — allowed them to estimate how expected malpractice risk has changed physician work patterns. Though some particulars within medicine have changed dramatically in the past 20 years, "the relative risk across medical specialties hasn't changed that much," he said.
"It was, and still is, the best data available," to determine how the constant threat of malpractice litigation affects work patterns.
The study found that doctors over 55 who own their own practices are far more sensitive to changes in liability risk than others, particularly because at that age, they begin to gradually cut their hours anyway, Showalter said.
The study has generated some interest by the American Medical Association and a few litigation attorneys since it became public, he said.
- Jury orders Siegfried and Jensen to pay...
- Wanted Layton man dies in New Mexico plane crash
- LDS Church relationship with Boy Scouts in...
- Which U.S. cities are the best for upward...
- IRS commits to not target tax-exempt status...
- Alleged sexual abuser on the run for 17 years...
- Doug Robinson: Weber State track coach isn't...
- Motley Crue concert delayed about two hours...
- LDS Church relationship with Boy Scouts... 303
- Boy Scouts in Utah, nation face... 141
- LDS Church 're-evaluating' Scouting... 109
- Profane and acclaimed: 'The Book of... 77
- Most Utahns oppose Supreme Court ruling... 68
- Lee takes on new strategy in fight... 46
- IRS commits to not target tax-exempt... 46
- Is report on building prison in Draper... 36