Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

MassHealth P4P: Did it work?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Aug• 02•11

Massachusetts’ Medicaid program instituted a pay-for-performance program in 2008.  Did it work?  According to this paper, the answer is no.

MassHealth P4P Background

The MassHealth pay-for-perfrmance P4P program was implemented in 2008.  At first the program was implmented using a P4P structure for pneumonia and pay-for-reporting for surgical infection prevention (SIP) and transitioning to P4P for both conditions in 2009. The program measures and incentivizes hospital quality for a subset of MassHealth [Massachusetts Medicaid program] patients who are enrolled in plans that directly bill MassHealth.

The Measures

For pneumonia:

  • oxygenation assessment,
  • blood culture performed in emergency department before first antibiotic received in hospital,
  • adult smoking cessation advice and counseling, initial antibiotic received within 6 hours of arrival, and
  • appropriate antibiotic selection in immunocompetent patients.

For Surgical Infection Prevention (SIP):

  • prophylactic antibiotic within 1 hour of surgical incision,
  • appropriate antibioticselection for surgical prophylaxis, and
  • prophylactic antibiotic discontinuedwithin 24 hours after surgery end time.

Evaluating Hospital Performance

The MassHealth P4P followed the Hospital VBP Report to Congress. Hospital performance on individual measures is aggregated to create a composite score; this composite score then is used to indicate the share of the bonus paymen that each hospital receives. More information on the Hospital VBP Report to Congress can be found here.

Identification Strategy

“We do not observe the quality of care provided to Medicaid patients in Massachusetts and other states, and instead we observe the quality provided to patients from all payers. Our identification strategy assumes that the financial incentives of the MassHealth program, which are based on quality performance
for only a subset of MassHealth patients, are reflected in the quality of care received by all patients.”

The authors control for:

  • Observed and unobserved hospital characteristics which remain fixed over time (i.e., fixed effects)
  • A secular trend in quality for each hospital (i.e., using a hospital-specific time trend)
  • Hospital case mix measured by a “difficulty index” to identify cases where hospitals choose patients selectively after P4P was implemented
  • In one sensitivity analysis, the authors use propensity scoring, nearest neighbor, one-to-one matching without replacement to create a sample of non-Massachusetts hospitals similar to those in Massachusetts. Hospitals were matched based on ownership, nuber of beds, urban/rural status, share of Medicare patients, and share of Medicaid patients.
  • The authors also test if hospitals with more Medicaid patients are more likely to have a larger increase in quality.

Evaluating Hospital Performance

The authors find that the MassHealth P4P has little effect on quality. “Estimates from our preferred specification, including hospital fixed effects, trends, and the control for measure completeness, indicate small and nonsignificant program effects for pneumonia (−0.67 percentage points, p>.10) and SIP (−0.12 percentage points, p>.10). ” The result could be due to the fact that P4P has, in actuality, no effect on quality. On the other hand, by using hospital-specific time trends, there may be little variation in quality over time to capture quality improvements after the P4P implementation.


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