The effects of Medicare payment reforms aiming to improve the efficiency and quality of care by establishing greater financial accountability for providers may vary based on the extent and types of other coverage for their patient populations. Providers who are more resource constrained due to a less favorable payer mix face greater financial risks under such reforms. The impact of the expanded Medicare dialysis prospective payment system (PPS) on quality of care in independent dialysis facilities may vary based on the extent of higher payments from private insurers available for managing increased risks.
To evaluate whether anemia outcomes for dialysis patients in independent facilities differ under the Medicare PPS based on facility payer mix.
We examined changes in anemia outcomes for 122,641 Medicare dialysis patients in 921 independent facilities during 2009–2014 among facilities with differing levels of employer insurance (EI). We performed similar analyses of facilities affiliated with large dialysis organizations, whose practices were not expected to change based on facility-specific payer mix.
Among independent facilities, similar modeled trends in low hemoglobin for all 3 facility EI groups in 2009–2010 were followed by increased low hemoglobin during 2012–2014 for facilities with lower EI (P<0.01). Post-PPS standardized blood transfusion ratios were 9% higher for lower EI versus higher EI independent facilities (P<0.01). Among large dialysis organizations facilities, there was no divergence in low hemoglobin by payer mix under the PPS.
There is evidence of poorer quality of care for anemia under the PPS in independent facilities with lower versus higher EI. Provider responses to payment reform may vary based on attributes such as payer mix that could have implications for health disparities.