A requirement of the Arkansas Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration waiver was to evaluate the level of care received for Medicaid expansion eligible beneficiaries enrolled in commercial Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) in the Health Care Independence “Private Option” Program. This allowed for a direct comparison of Medicaid and commercial system performance serving similar newly covered adults.
In 2014, assignment to either Medicaid or a QHP was made based upon a psychometrically derived continuous composite score to exceptional health care needs assessment screener using a sharp a priori threshold cutpoint. Using a regression discontinuity design we compared preventive care (flu vaccination and screening rates) services in the 2 programs over 3 years.
Compared with Medicaid enrollees, a higher percentage of QHP enrollees consistently received eligible preventive care screenings with 15.3, and 6.9% more receiving at least 1 or all eligible screenings, respectively. For individual preventive care outcomes and compared with Medicaid enrollees over the 3 years under study, a higher percentage of eligible QHP enrollees received a flu shot, cholesterol screenings, glycated hemoglobin assessment, and cervical and breast cancer periodic assessments. No differences were found for colorectal periodic assessments.
These findings suggest that at least for preventive services, the Medicaid federal equal access requirement is not being met for those within Medicaid fee-for-service coverage. This persisted across all 3 years of the program. Differential payment rates for services between Medicaid and QHPs are likely a major contributing factor.