Enrollee health status under Medicare risk contracts: an analysis of mortality rates.


Previous studies comparing the health status of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled under HMO risk contracts to that of Medicare beneficiaries in fee-for-service (FFS) have generally focused on demonstration projects conducted before 1985. This study examines mortality rates in 1987 for approximately 1 million aged Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in 108 HMOs. We estimated adjusted mortality ratios (AMR) for each HMO and across all HMOs, by dividing the actual number of deaths among HMO enrollees by the "expected" number of deaths. The expected number of deaths was based on death rates among local FFS populations, adjusting for age, sex, Medicaid buy-in status, and institutional status. The AMR for all HMO enrollees pooled together was 0.80. For persons newly enrolled in 1987, the AMR was 0.69; in general, AMRs were higher for beneficiaries who had been enrolled for longer periods of time. Among individual HMOs, none exhibited an AMR substantially above 1.00. Regression analysis indicated lower AMRs for staff model HMOs than for either IPA or group models. Low mortality among Medicare HMO enrollees is consistent with favorable selection or with improvements in the health status of enrollees due to better access or quality of care in HMOs. In either case, health status differences between HMO enrollees and FFS beneficiaries have implications for the appropriateness of Medicare's Adjusted Average Per Capita Cost (AAPCC) payment formula for HMOs.

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