High-Price And Low-Price Physician Practices Do Not Differ Significantly On Care Quality Or Efficiency

Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 36, Number 5 (May 2017), pages 855–864. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1266

Posted on RAND.org on June 06, 2017

by Ateev Mehrotra

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Consolidation of physician practices has intensified concerns that providers with greater market power may be able to charge higher prices without having to deliver better care, compared to providers with less market power. Providers have argued that higher prices cover the costs of delivering higher-quality care. We examined the relationship between physician practice prices for outpatient services and practices' quality and efficiency of care. Using commercial claims data, we classified practices as being high- or low-price. We used national data from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey and linked claims for Medicare beneficiaries to compare high- and low-price practices in the same geographic area in terms of care quality, utilization, and spending. Compared with low-price practices, high-price practices were much larger and received 36 percent higher prices. Patients of high-price practices reported significantly higher scores on some measures of care coordination and management but did not differ meaningfully in their overall care ratings, other domains of patient experiences (including physician ratings and access to care), receipt of preventive services, acute care use, or total Medicare spending. This suggests an overall weak relationship between practice prices and the quality and efficiency of care and calls into question claims that high-price providers deliver substantially higher-value care.

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