Malpractice Environment vs Direct Litigation: What Drives Nursing Home Exit?

Inquiry. 2018 Jan-Dec;55:46958018787995. doi: 10.1177/0046958018787995.


An ongoing concern about medical malpractice litigation is that it may induce provider exit, potentially affecting consumer welfare. The nursing home sector is subject to substantial litigation activity but remains generally understudied in terms of the effects of litigation, due perhaps to a paucity of readily available data. In this article, we estimate the association between litigation and nursing home exit (closure or change in ownership), separating the impact of malpractice environment from direct litigation. We use 2 main data sources for this study: Westlaw's Adverse Filings database (1997-2005) and Online Survey, Certification and Reporting data sets (1997-2005). We use probit models with state and year fixed effects to examine the relationship between litigation and the probability of nursing home closure or change in ownership with and without adjustment for malpractice environment. We examine the relationship on average and also stratify by profit status, chain membership, and market competition. We find that direct litigation against a nursing home has a nonsignificant effect on the probability of closure or change in ownership within the subsequent 2 years. In contrast, the broader malpractice environment has a significant effect on change in ownership, even for nursing homes that have not been sued, but not on closure. Effects are stronger among for-profit and chain facilities and those in more competitive markets. A high-risk malpractice environment is associated with change of ownership of nursing homes regardless of whether they have been directly sued, indicating that it is too blunt an instrument for weeding out low-quality nursing homes.

Keywords: exit; malpractice; nursing homes; ownership; probit models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Economic Competition
  • Health Personnel / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Nursing Homes / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ownership / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ownership / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Health Care / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • United States