Quality Of End-Of-Life Care Is Higher In The VA Compared To Care Paid For By Traditional Medicare

Published in: Health Affairs, Volume 37, Number 1 (January 2018), Pages 95–103. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0883

Posted on RAND.org on August 05, 2020

by Risha Gidwani, Jack Needleman, Vincent Mor, Katherine Faricy-Anderson, Derek B. Boothroyd, Gary Hsin, Todd H. Wagner, Karl Lorenz, Manali L. Patel, Vilija R. Joyce, Samantha S. Murrell, Kavitha Ramchandran, Steven M. Asch

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Congressional and Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders have recommended the VA become more of a purchaser than a provider of health care. Fee-for-service Medicare provides an example of how purchased care differs from the VA's directly provided care. Using established indicators of overly intensive end-of-life care, we compared the quality of care provided through the two systems to veterans dying of cancer in fiscal years 2010–14. The Medicare-reliant veterans were significantly more likely to receive high-intensity care, in the form of chemotherapy, hospital stays, admission to the intensive care unit, more days spent in the hospital, and death in the hospital. However, they were significantly less likely than VA-reliant patients to have multiple emergency department visits. Higher-intensity end-of-life care may be driven by financial incentives present in fee-for-service Medicare but not in the VA-s integrated system. To avoid putting VA-reliant veterans at risk of receiving lower-quality care, VA care-purchasing programs should develop coordination and quality monitoring programs to guard against overly intensive end-of-life care.

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