Many people assume that doctors tend to flock to states that have damage caps so that they won’t be sued for all of their money if they make a mistake in a medical procedure. This common belief is actually false. While medical malpractice reform advocates claim that the medical malpractice damage caps attract too many phsyicians away from states that do not have the damage caps, they are not actually citing a fact.
In fact, if all states have damage caps, then this would also reduce the incentive to relocate. A nationwide cap would reduce all relocation among doctors. Currently, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, New Mexico and Louisiana have total damages caps in place. West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, South Dakota, Michigan, Kansas, Maryland, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Kansas, Georgia, Utah, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Montana, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nevada are all states that have a noneconomic damages cap. This means that the cap pertains to any pain and suffering or emotional stress reimbursements, Massachusetts operates with both caps.
Researchers have studied the impact that these caps have on phsyicians, and discovered that damages caps may have a positive impact on the physician supply in rural areas. One study suggests that states that adopted damage caps had 3.2% more physicians per capita in rural counties. Research shows that damage caps don’t have any effect on physician supply but did report positive and significant increase in phsyicians per capital in quartile counties that have low population densities.
Another research project proved that phsyicians did not relocate based on damages. Before the damage cap was enacted in Texas, some claimed that phsyicians were fleeing the state promptly. Yet when the damage cap was enacted, some claimed that there was an actual influx of Texas doctors in the area. After these rumors were studied, the researchers discovered that the change in the population of doctors was minimal.