Reading list

Geographic Variation: A View From the Hospital Sector, by Rachel Mosher Henke, William D. Marder, Bernard S. Friedman, and Herbert S. Wong (MCRR)

Efforts to characterize geographic variation in health care utilization and spending have focused on patterns observed with Medicare data. The authors analyzed the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project national all-payer data for inpatient stays to assess variation in hospitalizations by age groups and, consequently, to understand how utilization of the Medicare population may differ from the population of other payers. The authors found that the correlation between inpatient discharges and costs per capita for the Medicare-eligible population over 65 and younger age groups increased from moderate to strong with age. These findings suggest examining Medicare inpatient data alone may provide a useful but not comprehensive understanding how hospital utilization and costs vary for the total population.

Medicare’s Payment Policy for Hospital-Acquired Conditions : Perspectives of Administrators From Safety Net Hospitals, by Megan McHugh, Kevin Van Dyke, Awo Osei-Anto, and Ahmed Haque (MCRR)

In 2008, Medicare implemented a policy limiting reimbursement to hospitals for treating avoidable hospital-acquired conditions (HACs). Although the policy will expand nationally to Medicaid programs in 2011, little is known about the impact on safety net hospitals. The authors conducted interviews with 60 chief quality officers and 55 chief financial officers from safety net hospitals to explore the impact of Medicare’s HACs policy during its first year. Despite the predicted small financial impact, the authors found that the policy gained the attention of hospital leaders and many governing boards. Although the policy reportedly provided additional motivation to reduce HACs, few hospitals implemented new care practices and instead focused on documenting conditions that are present for patients on admission. The findings also illustrate the need for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide more guidance to the industry when this type of policy is introduced.

The Doctor Might See You Now: The Supply Side Effects of Public Health Insurance Expansions, by Craig L. Garthwaite (NBER Working Paper)

In the United States, public health insurance programs cover over 90 million individuals. Changes in the scope of these programs, such as the Medicaid expansions under the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, may have large effects on physician behavior. This study finds that following the implementation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, physicians decreased the number of hours spent with patients, but increased their participation in the expanded program. Suggestive evidence is found that this decrease in hours was a result of shorter office visits. These findings are consistent with the predictions from a mixed-economy model of physician behavior with public and private payers and also provide evidence of crowd out resulting from the creation of SCHIP.

Spending to Save — ACOs and the Medicare Shared Savings Program, Paul B. Ginsburg (NEJM)

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