The impact of obstetrical liability on access to perinatal care in the rural United States

J Rural Health. 1989 Oct;5(4):321-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.1989.tb00993.x.


Liability issues have caused large numbers of obstetrical providers, particularly family and general practitioners, to discontinue offering perinatal care in rural areas. Losses of even small numbers of rural obstetrical providers can severely limit access to care for large geographic areas. A lack of access to local obstetrical care can result in less than adequate prenatal care and in potential delays in the diagnosis and care of acute perinatal complications. Women who live in these underserved rural communities suffer increased adverse birth outcomes, leading to significantly higher medical costs. Proposed solutions to the problem include risk management programs associated with reduced liability premiums; increased Medicaid reimbursement for obstetrical care; health department subsidies to offset insurance premiums for rural obstetrical care; and programs in predoctoral and residency training designed to identify, assess and address the health care needs of rural areas. Although some measure of success has resulted from these efforts, more systematic and comprehensive policy changes are needed to meet the challenge of this crisis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malpractice
  • Medically Underserved Area*
  • Obstetrics / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Perinatology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Physicians, Family
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Rural Health*
  • United States