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Keywords:

  • health outcomes;
  • the physical examination requirement;
  • safety-access trade-off;
  • telemedicine

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the effect on health outcomes of the regulation prohibiting physicians from prescribing drugs without a prior physical examination. This requirement could improve health by reducing illegal access to prescription drugs. However, it reduces access to health care by making it more difficult for patients and physicians to use many forms of telemedicine. Thus, this regulation generates a trade-off between access and safety. Using matching techniques, we find that the physician examination requirement leads to an increase of 1% in mortality rates from disease, the equivalent of 8.5 more deaths per 100,000 people, and a decrease of 6.7% in injury mortality, the equivalent of 2.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The magnitude of these effects is larger in rural areas and in areas with low physician density and is accompanied by an 18% increase in the number of days lost each month to illness. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.