Effects of CAHPS Health Plan Performance Information on Plan Choices by New Jersey Medicaid Beneficiaries

Published in: Health Services Research, v. 37 no. 4, Aug. 2002, p. 985-1007

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2001

by Donna O. Farley, Pamela Farley Short, Marc N. Elliott, David E. Kanouse, Julie A. Brown, Ron D. Hays

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OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of CAHPS health plan performance information on plan choices and decision processes by New Jersey Medicaid beneficiaries. DATA SOURCE/STUDY SETTING: The study sample was a state wide sample of all new Medicaid cases that chose Medicaid health plans during April 1998. The study used state data on health maintenance organization (HMO) enrollments and survey data for a subset of these cases. STUDY DESIGN: An experimental design was used, with new Medicaid cases randomly assigned to experimental or control groups. The experimental group received a CAHPS report along with the standard enrollment materials, and the control group did not. DATA COLLECTION: The HMO enrollment data were obtained from the state in June 1998, and evaluation survey data were collected from July to October 1998. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: No effects of CAHPS information on HMO choices were found for the total sample. Further examination revealed that only about half the Medicaid cases said they received and read the plan report and there was an HMO with dominant Medicaid market share but low CAHPS performance scores. The subset of cases who read the report and did not choose this dominant HMO chose HMOs with higher CAHPS scores, on average, than did those in an equivalent control group. CONCLUSIONS: Health plan performance information can influence plan choices by Medicaid beneficiaries, but will do so only if they actually read it. These findings suggest a need for enhancing dissemination of the information as well as further education to encourage informed choices.

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