Medicare's prospective payment system (PPS) for hospital cases is based on diagnosis-related groups (DRGs). A wide variety of other third-party payers for hospital care have adapted elements of this system for their own use. The extent of DRG use varies considerably both by type of payer and by geographical area. Users include: 21 State Medicaid programs, 3 workers' compensation systems, the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS), more than one half of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) member plans, several self-insured employers, and a few employer coalitions. The authors describe how each of these payers uses DRGs. No single approach is dominant. Some payers negotiate specific prices for so many combinations of DRG and hospital that the paradigm that payment equals rate times weight does not apply. What has emerged appears to be a very flexible payment system in which the only constant is the use of DRGs as a measure of output.

Originally published in: Health Care Financing Review, v. 16, no. 2, Winter 1994, pp. 127-158.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.