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Keywords:

  • HMOs’ contracting;
  • managed care;
  • coronary bypass surgery

Objective. Selective contracting with health care providers is one of the mechanisms HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) use to lower health care costs for their enrollees. However, are HMOs compromising quality to lower costs? To address this and other questions we identify factors that influence HMOs’ selective contracting for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

Study Design. Using a logistic regression analysis, we estimated the effects of hospitals’ quality, costliness, and geographic convenience on HMOs’ decision to contract with a hospital for CABG services. We also estimated the impact of HMO characteristics and market characteristics on HMOs’ contracting decision.

Data Sources. A 1997 survey of a nationally representative sample of 50 HMOs that could have potentially contracted with 447 hospitals.

Principal Findings. About 44 percent of the HMO-hospital pairs had a contract. We found that the probability of an HMO contracting with a hospital increased as hospital quality increased and decreased as distance increased. Hospital costliness had a negative but borderline significant (0.10<p<0.05) effect on the probability of a contract across all types of HMOs. However, this effect was much larger for IPA (Independent Practice Association)-model HMOs than for either group/staff or network HMOs. An increase in HMO competition increased the probability of a contract while an increase in hospital competition decreased the probability of a contract. HMO penetration did not affect the probability of contracting. HMO characteristics also had significant effects on contracting decisions.

Conclusions. The results suggest that HMOs value quality, geographic convenience, and costliness, and that the importance of quality and costliness vary with HMO. Greater HMO competition encourages broader hospital networks whereas greater hospital competition leads to more restrictive networks.