Managed care plans purport to improve the health of their members with chronic diseases. How has the growing adoption of Medicare Advantage (MA), the managed care program for Medicare beneficiaries, affected the progression of chronic disease? The literature is rich with articles focusing on managed care organizations' impacts on quality of care, access, patient satisfaction, and costs. However, few studies have analyzed these impacts with respect to market penetration of Medicare managed care.
The objective of this research has been to analyze the relationships between the market penetration of MA plans and the progression of chronic diseases among Medicare beneficiaries. The Chronic Disease Severity Index scale (CDSI) was constructed to represent beneficiaries' overall chronic disease states for survey or claims-based data, when more direct clinical measures of disease progression are not available. Using the CDSI on the MEPS survey dataset from AHRQ, we sought to assess the impacts of MA market penetration and other covariates on the overall chronic disease state of Medicare beneficiaries from 2004 through 2008.
Though the model explains much of the variation in CDSI change, the author expected the multilevel model would show that MA penetration explains a significant level of variation in CDSI change. However, this hypothesis was not substantiated, and the findings suggest that unmeasured factors may be contributing to additional unexplained heterogeneity.
Policymakers should explore opportunities to refine the current MA program. The MA program costs the federal government more than the Traditional Fee-for-Service Medicare program, and there is no definitive evidence that outcomes differ. Within both programs, there is opportunity to experiment with different models of payment, healthcare service delivery and care coordination.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains provisions for innovative demonstration projects in delivery and payment. The effectiveness of these ACA initiatives must be monitored, both for impacts on health outcomes and for economic effects. This research can inform future approaches to outcomes assessment using the CDSI, and multilevel modeling methodologies similar to those employed here.
Firms offering MA health plans would be prudent to proactively demonstrate their value to beneficiaries and taxpayers. They should explore means of better monitoring and reporting the longitudinal outcomes of their enrolled beneficiaries. Demonstrating that they can bring value in terms of improved health outcomes will help insure their long-term survival, both in the marketplace and in the political arena.