Delivery system integration and health care spending and quality for Medicare beneficiaries.
ABSTRACT: The Medicare accountable care organization (ACO) programs rely on delivery system integration and health care provider risk sharing to lower spending while improving quality of care.To compare spending and quality between larger and smaller provider groups and examine how size-related differences vary by 2 factors considered central to ACO performance: group primary care orientation and financial risk sharing by health care providers.Using 2009 Medicare claims and linked American Medical Association Group Practice data, we assigned 4.29 million beneficiaries to health care provider groups based on primary care use. We categorized group size according to eligibility thresholds for the Shared Savings (?5000 assigned beneficiaries) and Pioneer (?15,000) ACO programs and distinguished hospital-based from independent groups. We assessed the primary care orientation of larger groups' specialty mix and used health maintenance organization market penetration and data from the Community Tracking Study to measure the extent of financial risk accepted by different types of provider groups in different areas for managed care patients. We estimated linear regression models comparing spending and quality between larger and smaller health care provider groups, allowing size-related differences to vary by measures of group primary care orientation and risk sharing. Spending and quality measures included total medical spending, spending by type of service, 5 process measures of quality, and 30-day readmissions, all adjusted for sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.Compared with smaller groups, larger hospital-based groups had higher total per-beneficiary spending in 2009 (mean difference, +$849), higher 30-day readmission rates (+1.3 percentage points), and similar performance on 4 of 5 process measures of quality. In contrast, larger independent physician groups performed better than smaller groups on all process measures and exhibited significantly lower per-beneficiary spending in counties where risk sharing by these groups was more common (-$426). Among all groups sufficiently large to participate in ACO programs, a strong primary care orientation was associated with lower spending, fewer readmissions, and better quality of diabetes care.Spending was lower and quality of care better for Medicare beneficiaries served by larger independent physician groups with strong primary care orientations in environments where health care providers accepted greater risk.
Project description:The Medicare Accountable Care Organization (ACO) programs encourage integration of providers into large groups and reward provider groups for improving quality, but not explicitly for reducing health care disparities. Larger group size and better overall quality may or may not be associated with smaller disparities.To examine differences in patient characteristics between provider groups sufficiently large to participate in ACO programs and smaller groups; the association between group size and racial disparities in quality; and the association between quality and disparities among larger groups.Using 2009 Medicare claims for 3.1 million beneficiaries with cardiovascular disease or diabetes and linked data on provider groups, we compared racial differences in quality by provider group size, adjusting for patient characteristics. Among larger groups, we used multilevel models to estimate correlations between group performance on quality measures for white beneficiaries and black-white disparities within groups.Four process measures of quality, hospitalization for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions (ACSCs) related to cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and hospitalization for any ACSC.Beneficiaries served by larger groups were more likely to be white and live in areas with less poverty and more education. Larger group size was associated with smaller disparities in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol testing and retinal exams, but not in other process measures or hospitalization for ACSCs. Among larger groups, better quality for white beneficiaries in one measure (hospitalization for ACSCs related to cardiovascular disease or diabetes) was correlated with smaller racial disparities (r?=?0.28; P?=?0.02), but quality was not correlated with disparities in other measures.Larger provider group size and better performance on quality measures were not consistently associated with smaller racial disparities in care for Medicare beneficiaries with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. ACO incentives rewarding better quality for minority groups and payment arrangements supporting ACO development in disadvantaged communities may be required for ACOs to promote greater equity in care.
Project description:Wasteful practices are widespread in the US health care system. It is unclear if payment models intended to improve health care efficiency, such as the Medicare accountable care organization (ACO) programs, discourage the provision of low-value services.To assess whether the first year of the Medicare Pioneer ACO program was associated with a reduction in use of low-value services.In a difference-in-differences analysis, we compared use of low-value services between Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries attributed to health care provider groups that entered the Pioneer program (ACO group) and beneficiaries attributed to other health care providers (control group) before (2009-2011) vs after (2012) Pioneer ACO contracts began. Data analysis was conducted from December 1, 2014, to June 27, 2015. Comparisons were adjusted for beneficiaries' sociodemographic and clinical characteristics as well as for geography. We decomposed estimates according to service characteristics (clinical category, price, and sensitivity to patient preferences) and compared estimates between subgroups of ACOs with higher vs lower baseline use of low-value services.Use of, and spending on, 31 services in instances that provide minimal clinical benefit, measured as annual service counts per 100 beneficiaries and price-standardized annual service spending per 100 beneficiaries.During the precontract period, trends in the use of low-value services were similar for the ACO and control groups. The first year of ACO contracts was associated with a differential reduction (95% CI) of 0.8 low-value services per 100 beneficiaries for the ACO group (-1.2 to -0.4; P <?.001), corresponding to a 1.9% differential reduction in service quantity (-2.9% to -0.9%) and a 4.5% differential reduction in spending on low-value services (-7.5% to -1.4%; P =?.004). Differential reductions were similar for services less sensitive vs more sensitive to patient preferences and for higher- vs lower-priced services. The ACOs with higher than their markets' mean baseline levels of low-value service use experienced greater service reductions (-1.2 services per 100 beneficiaries; -1.7 to -0.7; P <?.001) than did ACOs with use below the mean (-0.2 services per 100 beneficiaries, -0.6 to -0.2; P =?.41; P =?.003 for test of difference between subgroups).During its first year, the Pioneer ACO program was associated with modest reductions in low-value services, with greater reductions for organizations providing more low-value care. Accountable care organization-like risk contracts may be able to discourage use of low-value services even without specifying services to target.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Because specialty care accounts for half of Medicare expenditures, improving its value is critical to the success of Medicare accountable care organizations (ACOs) in curbing spending growth. However, whether ACOs have reduced low-value specialty care without compromising use of high-value services remains unknown. METHODS AND RESULTS:Using national Medicare data, we identified 2 cohorts: beneficiaries for whom the value of coronary revascularization is lower (those with ischemic heart disease without angina, congestive heart failure, or recent admission for acute myocardial infarction) and beneficiaries for whom its value is higher (those with recent acute myocardial infarction admission). We then determined the provider groups who cared for the cohorts, distinguishing between those participating (n=298) and those not participating in a Medicare ACO (1329). After measuring the provider groups' use of coronary artery bypass grafting and percutaneous coronary intervention among the 2 cohorts, we fit multivariable models to test the statistical significance of rates of change in low- and high-value revascularization after ACO participation. During the pre-ACO period, participating and nonparticipating provider groups had similar rates of low- and high-value revascularization. Our multivariable model results show that rates of change for low- and high-value coronary revascularization were not altered by a provider group's participation in a Medicare ACO (lower value: difference, -0.04 per year; 95% confidence interval, -0.11 to 0.03; higher value: difference, 0.96 per year; 95% confidence interval, -0.46 to 2.4). CONCLUSIONS:We found no association between provider group participation in a Medicare ACO and use of low- or high-value coronary revascularization.
Project description:To determine how the inclusion of post-acute evaluation and management (E&M) services as primary care affects assignment of Medicare beneficiaries to accountable care organizations (ACOs).Medicare claims for a random 5 percent sample of 2009 Medicare beneficiaries linked to American Medical Association Group Practice data identifying provider groups sufficiently large to be eligible for ACO program participation.We calculated the fraction of community-dwelling beneficiaries whose assignment shifted, as a consequence of including post-acute E&M services, from the group providing their outpatient primary care to a different group providing their inpatient post-acute care.Assignment shifts occurred for 27.6 percent of 25,992 community-dwelling beneficiaries with at least one post-acute skilled nursing facility stay, and they were more common for those incurring higher Medicare spending. Those whose assignment shifted constituted only 1.3 percent of all community-dwelling beneficiaries cared for by large ACO-eligible organizations (n = 535,138), but they accounted for 8.4 percent of total Medicare spending for this population.Under current Medicare assignment rules, ACOs may not be accountable for an influential group of post-acute patients, suggesting missed opportunities to improve care coordination and reduce inappropriate readmissions.
Project description:In the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), accountable care organizations (ACOs) have financial incentives to lower spending and improve quality. We used quasi-experimental methods to assess the early performance of MSSP ACOs.Using Medicare claims from 2009 through 2013 and a difference-in-differences design, we compared changes in spending and in performance on quality measures from before the start of ACO contracts to after the start of the contracts between beneficiaries served by the 220 ACOs entering the MSSP in mid-2012 (2012 ACO cohort) or January 2013 (2013 ACO cohort) and those served by non-ACO providers (control group), with adjustment for geographic area and beneficiary characteristics. We analyzed the 2012 and 2013 ACO cohorts separately because entry time could reflect the capacity of an ACO to achieve savings. We compared ACO savings according to organizational structure, baseline spending, and concurrent ACO contracting with commercial insurers.Adjusted Medicare spending and spending trends were similar in the ACO cohorts and the control group during the precontract period. In 2013, the differential change (i.e., the between-group difference in the change from the precontract period) in total adjusted annual spending was -$144 per beneficiary in the 2012 ACO cohort as compared with the control group (P=0.02), consistent with a 1.4% savings, but only -$3 per beneficiary in the 2013 ACO cohort as compared with the control group (P=0.96). Estimated savings were consistently greater in independent primary care groups than in hospital-integrated groups among 2012 and 2013 MSSP entrants (P=0.005 for interaction). MSSP contracts were associated with improved performance on some quality measures and unchanged performance on others.The first full year of MSSP contracts was associated with early reductions in Medicare spending among 2012 entrants but not among 2013 entrants. Savings were greater in independent primary care groups than in hospital-integrated groups.
Project description:IMPORTANCE:Accountable care contracts hold physician groups financially responsible for the quality and cost of health care delivered to patients. Focusing on clinically vulnerable patients, those with serious conditions who are responsible for the greatest proportion of spending, may result in the largest effects on both patient outcomes and financial rewards for participating physician groups. OBJECTIVE:To estimate the effect of Medicare accountable care organization (ACO) contracts on spending and high-cost institutional use for all Medicare beneficiaries and for clinically vulnerable beneficiaries. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:For this cohort study, 2 study populations were defined: the overall Medicare population and the clinically vulnerable subgroup of Medicare beneficiaries. The overall Medicare population was based on a random 40% sample drawn from continuously enrolled fee-for-service beneficiaries with at least 1 evaluation and management visit in a calendar year. The clinically vulnerable study population included all Medicare beneficiaries 66 years or older who had at least 3 Hierarchical Condition Categories (HCCs). Beneficiaries entered the cohort during the quarter between January 2009 to December 2011 when they first had at least 3 HCCs and remained in the cohort until death. Cohort entry was restricted to the preperiod to account for potential changes in coding practices after ACO implementation. Difference-in-difference estimations were used to compare changes in health care outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries attributed to physicians in ACOs with those attributed to non-ACO physicians from January 2009 to December 2013. EXPOSURES:Medicare ACOs beginning contracts in January 2012, April 2012, July 2012, and January 2013 through the Pioneer and Medicare Shared Savings Programs. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:Total spending per beneficiary-quarter, spending categories, use of hospitals and emergency departments, ambulatory care sensitive admissions, and 30-day readmissions. RESULTS:Total spending decreased by $34 (95% CI, -$52 to -$15) per beneficiary-quarter after ACO contract implementation across the overall Medicare population (n?=?15?592?600) and decreased $114 in clinically vulnerable patients (n?=?8?673?823) (95% CI, -$178 to -$50). In the overall Medicare cohort, hospitalizations and emergency department visits decreased by 1.3 and 3.0 events per 1000 beneficiaries per quarter, respectively (95% CIs: -2.1 to -0.4 and -4.8 to -1.3), and hospitalizations and emergency department visits decreased in the clinically vulnerable cohort by 2.9 and 4.1 events per 1000 beneficiaries per quarter, respectively (95% CIs: -5.2 to -0.7 and -7.1 to -1.2). Changes in total spending associated with ACOs did not vary by clinical condition of beneficiaries. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:Medicare ACO programs are associated with modest reductions in spending and use of hospitals and emergency departments. Savings were realized through reductions in use of institutional settings in clinically vulnerable patients.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Despite widespread adoption of Medicare accountable care organizations (ACOs), healthcare spending reductions have been modest. This may relate to variable participation in ACOs by specialist physicians, who disproportionately drive spending. To examine whether specialist participation in Medicare ACOs was associated with changes in healthcare spending and clinical quality, we analyzed national Medicare data. METHODS AND RESULTS:Working with a 20% random sample of Medicare beneficiaries (2008 to 2015), we identified those with cardiovascular disease. We estimated linear regression models at the beneficiary-quarter level to evaluate changes in healthcare spending and clinical quality after the start of the Shared Savings Program in 2012. We then examined whether changes in spending and quality across ACOs were conditional on cardiologist participation. Our study included ?1.6 million beneficiaries per year. Although the number of ACOs increased over the study period (from 114 in 2012 to 392 in 2015), the proportion with any cardiologist participation remained stable (from 80% in 2012 to 83% in 2015). Compared with unaligned beneficiaries, those cared for by ACOs without cardiologist participation were associated with a spending reduction (per quarter) of -$75 (95% CI, -$105 to -$46; P<0.001). Care receipt in an ACO with cardiologist participation was associated with an additional difference in spending of -$56 (95% CI, -$87 to -$25; P<0.001), driven by lower spending for skilled nursing facilities, evaluation and management services, procedural care, and testing. While heart failure admission rates were similar among aligned and unaligned beneficiaries, ACO care was associated with fewer all-cause readmissions (P<0.001) and emergency department visits (P<0.001). Rates of these outcomes did not vary by cardiologist participation. CONCLUSIONS:Annual spending for beneficiaries with cardiovascular disease was ?$200 lower when cared for by ACOs with cardiologist participation (compared with those without). These spending reductions did not come at the expense of clinical quality.
Project description:Importance:Postacute care is thought to be a major source of wasteful spending. The extent to which accountable care organizations (ACOs) can limit postacute care spending has implications for the importance and design of other payment models that include postacute care. Objective:To assess changes in postacute care spending and use of postacute care associated with provider participation as ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and the pathways by which they occurred. Design, Setting, and Participants:With the use of fee-for-service Medicare claims from a random 20% sample of beneficiaries with 25?544?650 patient-years, 8?395?426 hospital admissions, and 1?595?352 stays in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2014, difference-in-difference comparisons of beneficiaries served by ACOs with beneficiaries served by local non-ACO health care professionals (control group) were performed before vs after entry into the MSSP. Differential changes were estimated separately for cohorts of ACOs entering the MSSP in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Exposures:Patient attribution to an ACO in the MSSP. Main Outcomes and Measures:Postacute spending, discharge to a facility, length of SNF stays, readmissions, use of highly rated SNFs, and mortality, adjusted for patient characteristics. Results:For the 2012 cohort of 114 ACOs, participation in the MSSP was associated with an overall reduction in postacute spending (differential change in 2014 for ACOs vs control group, -$106 per beneficiary [95% CI, -$176 to -$35], or -9.0% of the precontract unadjusted mean of $1172; P?=?.003) that was driven by differential reductions in acute inpatient care, discharges to facilities rather than home (-0.6 percentage points [95% CI, -1.1 to 0.0], or -2.7% of the unadjusted precontract mean of 22.6%; P?=?.03), and length of SNF stays (-0.60 days per stay [95% CI, -0.99 to -0.22], or -2.2% of the precontract unadjusted mean of 27.07 days; P?=?.002). Reductions in use of SNFs and length of stay were largely due to within-hospital or within-SNF changes in care specifically for ACO patients. Participation in the MSSP was associated with smaller significant reductions in SNF spending in 2014 for the 2013 ACO cohort (-$27 per beneficiary [95% CI, -$49 to -$6], or -3.3% of the precontract unadjusted mean of $813; P?=?.01) but not in the 2013 or 2014 cohort's first year of participation (-$13 per beneficiary [95% CI, -$33 to $6]; P?=?.19; and $4 per beneficiary [95% CI, -$15 to $24]; P?=?.66). Estimates were similar for ACOs with and without financial ties to hospitals. Participation in the MSSP was not associated with significant changes in 30-day readmissions, use of highly rated SNFs, or mortality. Conclusions and Relevance:Participation in the MSSP has been associated with significant reductions in postacute spending without ostensible deterioration in quality of care. Spending reductions were more consistent with clinicians working within hospitals and SNFs to influence care for ACO patients than with hospital-wide initiatives by ACOs or use of preferred SNFs.
Project description:In 2012, a total of 32 organizations entered the Pioneer accountable care organization (ACO) program, in which providers can share savings with Medicare if spending falls below a financial benchmark. Performance differences associated with characteristics of Pioneer ACOs have not been well described.In a difference-in-differences analysis of Medicare fee-for-service claims, we compared Medicare spending for beneficiaries attributed to Pioneer ACOs (ACO group) with other beneficiaries (control group) before (2009 through 2011) and after (2012) the start of Pioneer ACO contracts, with adjustment for geographic area and beneficiaries' sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. We estimated differential changes in spending for several subgroups of ACOs: those with and those without clear financial integration between hospitals and physician groups, those with higher and those with lower baseline spending, and the 13 ACOs that withdrew from the Pioneer program after 2012 and the 19 that did not.Adjusted Medicare spending and spending trends were similar in the ACO group and the control group during the precontract period. In 2012, the total adjusted per-beneficiary spending differentially changed in the ACO group as compared with the control group (-$29.2 per quarter, P=0.007), consistent with a 1.2% savings. Savings were significantly greater for ACOs with baseline spending above the local average, as compared with those with baseline spending below the local average (P=0.05 for interaction), and for those serving high-spending areas, as compared with those serving low-spending areas (P=0.04). Savings were similar in ACOs with financial integration between hospitals and physician groups and those without, as well as in ACOs that withdrew from the program and those that did not.Year 1 of the Pioneer ACO program was associated with modest reductions in Medicare spending. Savings were greater for ACOs with higher baseline spending than for those with lower baseline spending and were unrelated to withdrawal from the program. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging and others.).
Project description:Importance:People with complex needs account for a disproportionate amount of Medicare spending, partially because of fragmented care delivered across multiple practitioners and settings. Accountable care organization (ACO) contracts give practitioners incentives to improve care coordination to the extent that coordination initiatives reduce total spending or improve quality. Objective:To assess the association between ACO-reported care management and coordination activities and quality, utilization, spending, and health care system interactions in older adults with complex needs. Design, Setting, and Participants:In this cross-sectional study, survey information on care management and coordination processes from 244 Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs in the 2017-2018 National Survey of ACOs (of 351 Medicare ACO respondents; response rate, 69%) conducted from July 20, 2017, to February 15, 2018, was linked to 2016 Medicare administrative claims data. Medicare beneficiaries 66 years or older who were defined as having complex needs because of frailty or 2 or more chronic conditions associated with high costs and clinical need were included. Exposures:Beneficiary attribution to ACO reporting comprehensive (top tertile) care management and coordination activities. Main Outcomes and Measures:All-cause prevention quality indicator admissions, 30-day all-cause readmissions, acute care and critical access hospital admissions, evaluation and management visits in ambulatory settings, inpatient days, emergency department visits, total spending, post-acute care spending, health care contact days, and continuity of care (from Medicare claims). Results:Among 1 402 582 Medicare beneficiaries with complex conditions, the mean (SD) age was 78 (8.0) years and 55.1% were female. Compared with beneficiaries assigned to ACOs in the bottom tertile of care management and coordination activities, those assigned to ACOs in the top tertile had identical median prevention quality indicator admissions and 30-day all-cause readmissions (0 per beneficiary across all tertiles), hospitalization and emergency department visits (1.0 per beneficiary in bottom and top tertiles), evaluation and management visits in ambulatory settings (14.0 per beneficiary [interquartile range (IQR), 8.0-21.0] in both tertiles), longer median inpatient days (11.0 [IQR, 4.0-33.0] vs 10.0 [IQR, 4.0-32.0]), higher median annual spending ($14 350 [IQR, $4876-$36 119] vs $14 229 [IQR, $4805-$36 268]), lower median health care contact days (28.0 [IQR, 17.0-44.0] vs 29.0 [IQR, 18.0-45.0]), and lower continuity-of-care index (0.12 [IQR, 0.08-0.20] vs 0.13 [IQR, 0.08-0.21]). Accounting for within-patient correlation, quality, utilization, and spending outcomes among patients with complex needs attributed to ACOs were not statistically different comparing the top vs bottom tertile of care management and coordination activities. Conclusions and Relevance:The ACO self-reports of care management and coordination capacity were not associated with differences in spending or measured outcomes for patients with complex needs. Future efforts to care for patients with complex needs should assess whether strategies found to be effective in other settings are being used, and if so, why they fail to meet expectations.