Comparison of low-value care in medicaid vs commercially insured populations

Christina J. Charlesworth, Thomas H A Meath, Aaron L. Schwartz, Kenneth (John) McConnell

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IMPORTANCE Reducing unnecessary tests and treatments is a potentially promising approach for improving the value of health care. However, relatively little is known about whether insurance type or local practice patterns are associated with delivery of low-value care. OBJECTIVES To compare low-value care in the Medicaid and commercially insured populations, test whether provision of low-value care is associated with insurance type, and assess whether local practice patterns are associated with the provision of low-value care. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This cross-sectional study of claims data from the Oregon Division of Medical Assistance Programs and the Oregon All-Payer All-Claims database included Medicaid and commercially insured adults aged 18 to 64 years. The study period was January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Low-value carewas assessed using 16 claims-based measures. Logistic regression was used to test the association between Medicaid vs commercial insurance coverage and low-value care and the association between Medicaid and commercial low-value care rates within primary care service areas (PCSAs). RESULTS This study included 286 769 Medicaid and 1 376 308 commercial enrollees in 2013. Medicaid enrollees were younger (167 847 [58.5%] of Medicaid enrollees were aged 18-34 years vs 505 628 [36.7%] of those with commercial insurance) but generally had worse health status compared with those with commercial insurance. Medicaid enrollees were also more likely to be female (180 363 [62.9%] vs 702 165 [51.0%]) and live in a rural area (120 232 [41.9%] vs 389 964 [28.3%]). A total of 10 304 of 69 338 qualifying Medicaid patients (14.9%; 95%CI, 14.6%-15.1%) received at least 1 low-value service during 2013; the corresponding rate for commercially insured patients was 35 739 of 314 023 (11.4%; 95%CI, 11.3%-11.5%). No consistent association was found between insurance type and low-value care. Compared with commercial patients, Medicaid patients were more likely to receive low-value care for 10 measures and less likely to receive low-value care for 5 others. For 7 of 11 low-value care measures, Medicaid patients were significantly more likely to receive low-value care if they resided in a PCSA with a higher rate of low-value care for commercial patients. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Oregon Medicaid and commercially insured patients received moderate amounts of low-value care in 2013. No consistent association was found between insurance type and low-value care. However, Medicaid and commercial rates of low-value care were associated with one another within PCSAs. Low-value care may be more closely related to local practice patterns than to reimbursement generosity or insurance benefit structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)998-1004
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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