Change Medical Liability Laws to Reduce the Frequency and Severity of Claims

by Michael D. Greenberg, M. Susan Ridgely

The RAND Corporation's COMPARE initiative provides information and tools to help policymakers, the media, and others understand, design, and evaluate health care policies. The COMPARE Web site presents a range of policy options that allows the user to explore the effects of commonly proposed health care reforms.

This document explores how changing medical liability laws to reduce the frequency and severity of claims would affect health system performance along nine dimensions. Changing medical liability laws plausibly might reduce waste. But such changes would have only a minimal direct effect on overall spending; evidence of effects on health and capacity is mixed. There is no evidence about the effects of changing liability laws on consumer financial risk, reliability of care, patient experience, or coverage. There is no broad legal impediment to changing medical liability laws: Such changes have already been implemented by many state legislatures.

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