Medicare Advantage and Postdischarge Quality: Evidence From Hospital Readmissions


Research Design: We used the Company for Healthcare Analysis and High quality’s 2009 and 2014 Healthcare Price and Utilization Venture State Inpatient Databases for 4 states with dependable sources of cost identifiers, linking these information to native space traits. Our end result was the chance of a hospital readmission inside 30 days of an index admission. We computed readmission charges general and by subgroups, together with for sufferers with a number of continual circumstances, by sufferers’ state of residence, and by sort of index admission.

Strategies: We estimated linear chance fashions with hospital fastened results together with a big selection of patient-level traits referring to well being standing and sociodemographic traits. Normal errors had been adjusted for clustering on the space degree.

Outcomes: Considerably decrease all-cause readmission charges had been discovered amongst MA enrollees relative to these in TM in each 2009 and 2014, suggesting an affiliation between MA enrollment and better high quality of care. Nevertheless, over the 2009-2014 interval, MA enrollment was not related to an elevated discount in readmission charges relative to TM.

Conclusions: Though our focus was on a single measure of efficiency, the claims that managed care plans are spearheading modifications within the supply system should not supported by our discovering that relative readmission charges had been secure over the 2009-2014 interval.

Am J Manag Care. 2020;26(12):In Press


Takeaway Factors

Medicare Benefit (MA) plans have been more and more centered on enhancing the supply of care and coordinating postdischarge transitions by coverage modifications.

  • We in contrast relative readmission dangers for beneficiaries enrolled in MA and conventional Medicare as proof of modifications in care coordination and apply outcomes.
  • Though supply system reforms have been a lot lauded for years, modifications in improved high quality for postacute care don’t seem like differentially accruing to MA beneficiaries.
  • Extra analysis on particular managed care interventions to cut back readmissions is required to strengthen the proof base.


The Medicare Benefit (MA) program was designed to offer a variety of insurance coverage decisions that may meet the particular well being care wants of Medicare beneficiaries and assist coordinate the supply of care. On account of each coverage modifications and the inducement to cut back prices in a capitated surroundings, MA plans have been more and more centered on coordinating care. Quite a lot of methods to take action have been applied over the previous decade, together with patient-centered care fashions, illness administration packages, Particular Wants Plans, and incentivizing main care groups to higher coordinate care supply.1,2 Due to its measurement and deal with the aged and disabled, the MA program has been lauded as a attainable avenue for offering enrollees with higher worth and high quality of care and probably spurring bigger reforms to the well being care system.3

Readmission charges are one methodology for assessing the function that managed care can play in enhancing high quality and worth. Though readmissions are an imperfect proxy for high quality, they will function a sign of the success that managed care can have at coordinating care by illness administration, in addition to postdischarge care and communication. Recognizing the function of readmissions in enhancing the worth and high quality of well being care programs, since 2013 CMS has penalized acute care hospitals with comparatively excessive readmission charges underneath the Hospital Readmissions Discount Program (HRRP). Furthermore, accountable care organizations are actually being evaluated utilizing all-cause readmissions.4 Though it could be unattainable to focus on a particular readmission fee that may very well be thought-about applicable or acceptable, MA plans have the potential to offer postacute care that’s extra coordinated than for these lined by conventional Medicare (TM). Thus, it’s believable that MA plans can enhance so-called “care transitions,” which have been proven to cut back readmission charges.5

To judge the success of MA in enhancing readmission charges, we in contrast MA sufferers with their TM counterparts, assessing modifications within the relative fee of readmissions over the 2009-2014 interval. Though MA plans coordinate care in heterogeneous methods, we broaden the deal with combination outcomes to know and examine how managed care could have influenced postdischarge coordination over a interval of nice curiosity for modifications within the panorama for aged beneficiaries. After controlling for variations in therapy patterns amongst hospitals and for differential well being choice into MA and TM, we discovered that relative charges of readmission between MA and TM weren’t statistically totally different in 2009 and 2014. In 1 state—California—the change over time was modestly vital, indicating potential enhancements in care supply in a area with a historical past of upper managed care penetration. Earlier research have in contrast readmission charges in MA and TM, however none to our data has been in a position to immediately deal with each considerations of choice bias and the likelihood that therapy patterns could systematically differ amongst hospitals, which can have biased earlier efforts to determine the impact of MA on readmissions.


A core purpose of managed care organizations is to offer worth for enrollees due to their capacity to offer extra intently coordinated care than people would in any other case obtain in an unmanaged well being care plan. Nevertheless, given the complexity of the inpatient setting and the number of causes that may result in readmissions, it’s not clear to what extent managed care can enhance readmission dangers. Within the Medicare setting, restricted however conflicting proof exists concerning how MA could contribute to a affected person’s readmission dangers after an preliminary hospitalization in contrast with beneficiaries in a TM setting. Most research have discovered that unadjusted readmission charges had been decrease for MA than TM sufferers. Nevertheless, contradictory proof exists after adjusting for danger, which is important as a result of enrollees are enrolled by default into TM and most have a alternative of a number of MA plans. Most earlier research discovered that readmission charges for MA sufferers had been decrease than these for TM sufferers.6,7 However, different research utilizing totally different strategies and information sources have discovered that MA sufferers had been considerably extra doubtless than TM sufferers to be readmitted.8,9

Earlier analysis efforts have usually centered on readmission outcomes for a single yr, together with work on racial and ethnic disparities in readmission charges,10 readmission comparisons for single ailments,7,11,12 and an early evaluation of readmission charges shortly after the introduction of the HRRP.13 Different research specializing in readmission outcomes over time within the wake of the HRRP didn’t examine outcomes for MA and TM beneficiaries.14,15

Our examine differs from earlier work by evaluating MA and TM readmission charges over time whereas utilizing strong strategies to regulate for choice bias between MA and TM and concurrently controlling for hospital-specific patterns of choice and therapy. Heterogeneous results on the hospital degree might happen both by choice or through therapy high quality and decision-making. Particularly, MA plans may steer enrollees to specific hospitals (choice), and hospitals can fluctuate extensively of their discharge protocols, in addition to incentives and preparations for using postacute care (therapy), each of which might have contaminated earlier outcomes however, to our data, haven’t but been addressed.


Our important sources of knowledge are the Company for Healthcare Analysis and High quality 2009 and 2014 Healthcare Price and Utilization Venture (HCUP) State Inpatient Databases. HCUP information are discharge-level data, and the unit of study is every inpatient hospital admission (index admission), which might have been for any trigger between January and November in every calendar yr. Our end result was the affected person’s danger of readmission, outlined because the chance of a hospital readmission inside 30 days of discharge from an index admission. (A single affected person may be counted a number of instances throughout the course of the January by November remark interval, so a hospital keep could also be each a readmission for a previous keep and the index admission for a subsequent readmission.) We included index admissions for beneficiaries 65 years and older. Deliberate readmissions and trauma-related readmissions are excluded, based mostly on strategies utilized in earlier analysis.16

We seemed on the efficiency of MA plans in 4 states (New York, California, Florida, and Tennessee), which had a variety of MA penetration charges (from 32% to 38%). Collectively these 4 states accounted for 32% of all Medicare managed care enrollees in 2014.17 We restricted the pattern to those states as a result of they’ve strong and validated information on affected person identifiers to calculate readmissions and indicators for MA and TM for each 2009 and 2014.

To determine MA vs TM enrollment, we used patient-level indicators for the anticipated supply of cost as recorded within the intramural variations of the discharge-level HCUP information. MA plans included all managed care plan varieties (eg, well being upkeep organizations [HMOs], most well-liked supplier organizations, non-public fee-for-service [FFS]); we weren’t in a position to distinguish amongst them.

We computed readmission charges general and by subgroups, together with for sufferers with a number of continual circumstances (MCC), by sufferers’ state of residence, and by sort of index admission. Relative chances of readmission in MA and TM had been in contrast over time. We explored results on sufferers with MCCs due to the eye this inhabitants has lengthy garnered and the likelihood that stronger results may very well be discovered for a inhabitants with essentially the most to achieve from higher postacute coordination.18 Due to the excessive variety of continual circumstances among the many aged, we outlined MCC as 6 or extra circumstances recognized in an index admission, which narrowed the pattern for these analyses to about 64% of the scale of our aged examine inhabitants. We computed readmission charges by index admission varieties, together with emergency, pressing, and elective admissions. Our speculation was that if managed care organizations can successfully cut back readmission charges, we’d count on bigger enhancements for elective admissions, for which plans can anticipate and plan postacute care extra successfully than for advanced, unexpected circumstances.

We computed multivariate linear chance fashions (LPMs) with hospital fastened results, which management for the impact of hospital-specific therapy patterns and potential steering by MA plans to particular hospitals. All fashions managed for particular person and regional traits which may be related to the chance of selecting MA vs TM and general therapy patterns. Estimates proven are predicted chances of readmission whereas adjusting for mannequin covariates. Normal errors had been adjusted for clustering on the main care service space (PCSA) degree, and reported variations had been vital utilizing a P worth of .05.


To regulate for self-selection into managed care plans, we included the next particular person affected person traits: variety of continual circumstances, age group, severity of sickness, admission sort, dangers of mortality, race/ethnicity, gender, and affected person comorbidities. We used the All Affected person Refined Prognosis Associated Teams (APR-DRGs) severity rating within the HCUP database to manage for affected person severity and danger of mortality; these had been summarized into 4 classes. Severity of sickness and danger of mortality had been assigned by making use of a base APR-DRG after which adjusting for the severity of secondary diagnoses and interactions with age, principal prognosis, and procedures.19 To regulate for variations in readmission dangers throughout APR-DRGs, our mannequin contains APR-DRG weights, calculated as standardized values of general readmission charges in 4 states by APR-DRG classes.

We outlined regional controls utilizing information from the Well being Assets and Providers Administration that outline markets as PCSAs (moderately than bigger, extra heterogeneous, counties). PCSAs approximate geographic markets for main care providers based mostly on Medicare FFS affected person flows to main care physicians’ places of work.20 PCSA-level variables included main care doctor density, inhabitants density, and rural-urban location.

eAppendix Desk 1 (eAppendix available at offers abstract statistics for all covariates by MA and TM standing in annually.

Sensitivity Analyses

We examined the robustness of our findings to totally different fashions, together with LPMs with out hospital fastened results, propensity rating matching (PSM) with inverse chance weights, and PSM with augmented inverse chance weights. PSM fashions had been used to know the sensitivity of our estimates to a extra conservative strategy for matching comorbidities to regulate for choice bias in MA or TM. eAppendix Desk 2 reveals that the outcomes for these various fashions didn’t differ meaningfully from the leads to the textual content. For all PSM fashions, we confirmed the fashions had been accurately specified for every covariate by checking the stability in each the variations within the means and the ratio of variances between the handled and management teams (eAppendix Tables 3 and 4).

We additionally examined the sensitivity of our findings to (1) together with variety of procedures and complete expenses for every admission, (2) together with mortality charges on the hospital degree, (3) together with size of keep for the index admission, and (4) excluding sufferers who died within the hospital. No significant modifications in our findings had been noticed.


Determine 1 reveals readmission charges in 2009 and 2014 after adjusting for variations in beneficiary well being standing and variations arising from hospital therapy patterns and compositional results. In 2009, readmission charges for MA enrollees had been decrease (14.4%) in contrast with these for beneficiaries with TM (15.1%). Likewise, in 2014, readmission charges for MA enrollees (13.4%) had been decrease than for these in TM (14.1%). The distinction in MA and TM readmission charges in 2009 (–0.6%) was not statistically totally different from the distinction in 2014 (–0.8%) (P = .30). (eAppendix Desk 2 reveals that the relative unadjusted readmission fee modified over time, however this comparability was statistically insignificant after controlling for well being standing and different covariates. eAppendix Tables 5 and 6 present the complete regression outcomes for the LPMs for annually.)

Determine 2 reveals that, amongst these with 6 or extra continual circumstances in 2009, MA enrollees had decrease charges of readmission (16.9%) than enrollees in TM (17.5%). Equally, in 2014, enrollees with MCC in MA had decrease readmission charges (15.2%) than these in TM (16.1%). Nevertheless, the variations within the MA and TM readmission charges (–0.7% in 2009 and –0.9% in 2014) didn’t statistically differ over time (P = .27).

Determine 3 reveals variations within the MA and TM readmission charges in annually and by state. The distinction between the MA and TM readmission charges didn’t change over the 2009-2014 interval in Florida, New York, or Tennessee. Variations between these years in every state weren’t statistically or meaningfully totally different. Nevertheless, the distinction in MA and TM readmission charges in 2014 (–1.6%) was considerably totally different from the distinction in 2009 (–1.1%) in California (P = .04).

Determine 4 shows variations in MA and TM readmission charges by class of index discharge in annually of our examine. Not one of the variations in discharge varieties over time prompt modifications within the relative fee of MA and TM readmissions. Though all 3 of the relative charges of readmission weren’t statistically totally different in 2014 than in 2009, the 2014 relative charges had been modestly decrease than the 2009 charges throughout all 3 classes.


Our outcomes are in line with these of nearly all of earlier research to find decrease charges of readmission for MA enrollees than TM enrollees after controlling for well being danger. We confirmed that decrease charges of readmission in MA had been current in each 2009 and 2014 and had been usually constant over time for the subgroups we analyzed, together with beneficiaries with MCC, in 3 of the 4 states in our pattern, and for various admission varieties. Our estimates prolong the prior literature by utilizing a technique that accounts for each differential well being choice into MA and for therapy and choice patterns that may differ throughout hospital settings. After controlling for a big selection of measures of well being danger, together with continual circumstances and comorbidities, and eradicating hospital-specific variability, our outcomes present additional help for the affiliation between MA enrollment and decrease danger of hospital readmission, which is one measure by which high quality of care and worth to enrollees may be assessed.

However, importantly, we additionally discovered that the decrease relative fee of readmission in MA was not statistically totally different in 2014 in contrast with 2009. Since 2009, growing consideration has been paid to how one can enhance the standard of take care of the Medicare inhabitants and, particularly, how MA plans may higher coordinate care utilizing illness administration packages, postdischarge planning, and Particular Wants Plans, which can profit these with MCC.18 With better capability to deal with designing built-in supply programs to satisfy the wants of high-risk, high-need people, it might be cheap to count on differential enchancment in readmission charges amongst MA enrollees in contrast with these in TM. Another rationalization of our findings is that managed care organizations have been much less concerned in supply system modifications than hospital directors and thus reductions in readmissions are accruing throughout Medicare beneficiaries with out respect to payer standing.

In 3 of the 4 states in our examine, we had been unable to verify that any such vital modifications had taken place over the 2009 to 2014 time interval. We discovered that the relative readmission fee in MA vs TM for California was decrease in 2014 in contrast with 2009. Of notice, California has persistently had larger native HMO penetration in its MA market in contrast with different states (97% enrolled in HMOs in California in 2014 in contrast with 70%-73% within the 3 different states in our pattern). It’s attainable that the upper share of enrollees in HMO plans in California could have enabled improved high quality of inpatient or postacute supply by better coordination and administration of care. Nevertheless, our methodological design didn’t permit us to find out the particular causes of the distinction in California.

We discovered no proof that readmission charges are differentially enhancing in MA for some varieties of index admissions however not others. The null discovering for any enchancment in MA relative to TM over time appears intuitive for the advanced and heterogeneous therapy patterns related to emergency and pressing care admissions. One space the place managed care plans might theoretically have extra capacity to coordinate and management readmissions could be elective surgical procedures. Nevertheless, we discovered comparable relative charges of readmission in MA and TM inside any specific yr and no change over time for any of the subcategories of readmissions.


By specializing in readmissions within the HCUP information, we didn’t particularly measure how MA plans could also be coordinating postdischarge care. Though we have now managed for a broad array of comorbidities and well being standing measures, unobserved well being choice between MA and TM should affect our outcomes. As an example, one attribute we don’t observe persistently within the HCUP information is twin eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid. As a result of dual-eligible sufferers are sicker and poorer and extra prone to be in TM, this might have resulted in larger noticed charges of readmission amongst TM sufferers than amongst MA sufferers. In the end, we discover that controls for severity of sickness, together with an in depth listing of affected person comorbidities, didn’t considerably have an effect on our estimated chances. Thus, additional refinements on this vein would doubtless not have modified our outcomes and, furthermore, would have solely narrowed the statistically insignificant variations we discovered over time between MA and TM readmission charges.

Compositional modifications within the MA and TM populations over the 2009-2014 interval might also be influencing our outcomes. Beneficiaries could change their standing over time by switching from one sector to the opposite, maybe in response to a well being occasion. These results are doubtless mitigated by the introduction of lock-in intervals for MA enrollees that started in 2006.21 Lastly, as a result of we studied solely 4 states, our conclusions will not be generalizable to the nation as an entire.


We persistently discovered decrease readmission charges for MA beneficiaries than for these in TM, which means that managed care could be profitable at offering larger high quality within the postacute care setting. Nevertheless, over the interval we noticed, we didn’t discover that the differential between MA and TM enrollees was growing, though a broad vary of makes an attempt had been made to systematically change how MA plans ship care to beneficiaries. Future work on this space ought to examine newer information on how readmissions and different high quality metrics differ in MA and TM and extra systematically assess particular managed care interventions to enhance the supply system. Though supply system reforms have been a lot lauded for years, modifications in improved readmission charges don’t seem like differentially accruing to MA beneficiaries.

Creator Affiliations: Company for Healthcare Analysis and High quality (PDJ, JB), Rockville, MD.

Supply of Funding: None.

Creator Disclosures: The authors report no relationship or monetary curiosity with any entity that might pose a battle of curiosity with the subject material of this text.

Authorship Info: Idea and design (PDJ, JB); acquisition of knowledge (JB); evaluation and interpretation of knowledge (PDJ, JB); drafting of the manuscript (PDJ, JB); vital revision of the manuscript for vital mental content material (PDJ, JB); and statistical evaluation (PDJ, JB).

Deal with Correspondence to: Paul D. Jacobs, PhD, Company for Healthcare Analysis and High quality, 5600 Fishers Ln, Mailstop 07W41A, Rockville, MD 20850. E-mail:


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