Plan Characteristics and SSI Enrollees' Access to and Quality of Care in Four TennCare MCOs


  • Steven C Hill,

  • Judith Wooldridge

  • The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and the Health Care Financing Administration through a contract with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and no official endorsement by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, DHHS, or Mathematica Policy Research is intended or should be inferred.

Address correspondence to Steven C. Hill, Ph.D., Service Fellow Economist, Center for Cost and Financing Studies, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2101 E. Jefferson St., Ste. 500, Rockville, MD 20852. Judith Wooldridge, M.A., is Vice President, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Princeton, NJ.


Objective. To assess hypotheses about which managed care organization (MCO) characteristics affect access to care and quality of care—including access to specialists, providers' knowledge about disability, and coordination of care—for people with disabilities.

Data Sources/Study Setting. Survey of blind/disabled Supplemental Security Income (SSI) enrollees in four MCOs serving TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid managed care program, in Memphis, conducted from 1998 through spring 1999.

Study Design. We compared enrollee reports of access and quality across the four MCOs using regression methods, and we use case study methods to assess whether patterns both within and across MCOs are consistent with the hypotheses.

Data Collection. We conducted computer-assisted telephone surveys and used regression analysis to compare access and quality controlling for enrollee characteristics.

Principal Findings. Although the four MCOs' characteristics varied, access to providers, coordination of care, and access to some services were generally similar across MCOs. Enrollees in one plan, the only MCO with a larger provider network and that paid physicians on a fee-for-service basis, reported their providers were more knowledgeable, and they had more secondary preventive care visits. Differences found in access to specialists and delays in approving care appear to be unrelated to characteristics reported by the MCOs, but instead may be related to how tightly utilization is reviewed.

Conclusions. Plan networks, financial incentives, utilization management methods, and state requirements are important areas for further study, and, in the meantime, ongoing monitoring of SSI enrollees in each MCO may be important for detecting problems and successes.