Effects of Tort Reforms on Health Outcomes, Spending, and Procedure Choice
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This project analyzes the impact of five tort reforms on measures of health quality, healthcare spending, and procedure choice using OLS regression. In particular, the project examines deaths due to medical error, end-of-life spending, and method of birth delivery. Consistent with past findings, tort reforms do not appear to have an effect on medical error mortality rates or healthcare quality; however, tort reforms do decrease end-of-life care spending and influence method of birth delivery. For the average state, adopting caps on punitive damages decreases spending by $524 per decedent. For births, the more interesting and novel results concern women who have had previous c-sections: caps on punitive damages are associated with an increase of 4.6 percentage points on a woman's probability of having a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC). Taken together, the results suggest that tort reforms have more influence over healthcare spending and physician decision-making for high-risk patients.