The Effect of Selective Contracting on Hospital Costs and Revenues

Published in: Health Services Research, v. 35, no. 4, Oct. 2000, p. 849-867

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Jack Zwanziger, Glenn Melnick, Anil Bamezai

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of selective contracting on California hospital costs and revenues over the 1983-1997 period. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING. Annual disclosure data and discharge data sets for 421 California general acute care hospitals from 1980 to 1997. ANALYSIS: Using measures of competition developed from patient-level discharge data, and financial and utilization measures from the disclosure data, the authors estimated a fixed effect multivariate regression model of hospital costs and revenues. FINDINGS: The authors found that hospitals in more competitive areas had a substantially lower rate of increase in both costs and revenues over this extended period of time. For-profit hospitals lowered their costs and revenues after selective contracting was initiated relative to the cost and revenue levels of not-for-profit hospitals. The Medicare PPS has also led high-cost hospitals to lower their costs. CONCLUSIONS: The more competitive the hospital's market, the greater degree to which it has had to lower the rate of increase in costs. A similar pattern exists with regard to hospital revenues. Both of these trends appear to result from the growth of selective contracting. It remains unclear to what extent these cost reductions were the result of increased efficiency or of reduced quality. Since hospital cost growth is sensitive to the competitiveness of its market, antitrust enforcement is a critical element in any cost containment policy.

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