Rates of cardiovascular procedures differ for medicare beneficiaries

July 10, 2013

AURORA, Colo. (July 10, 2013) - Rates of angiography and percutaneous coronary interventions were significantly lower among Medicare Advantage beneficiaries when compared to those covered by Medicare fee-for-service, according to a study by a University of Colorado School of Medicine physician published in the July 10 issue of JAMA.

The study, which included nearly 6 million Medicare Advantage and Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries from 12 states, also found that geographic variation in procedure rates was substantial for both payment types.

"Treatment of cardiovascular disease is one of the largest drivers of health care cost in the United States, accounting for $273 billion annually. Cardiovascular procedures are major contributors to this high cost," according to background information in the article. "Little is known about how different financial incentives between Medicare Advantage and Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement structures influence use of cardiovascular procedures."

"Under the Medicare FFS reimbursement structure, physicians are paid more for doing more procedures. In contrast, integrated delivery systems that provide care for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries receive a capitated payment, and physicians working in these settings are not paid more for doing more procedures," the authors write.

Daniel D. Matlock, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, and colleagues conducted a study to compare the overall rates and local area rates of coronary angiography, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI; procedures such as balloon angioplasty or stent placement used to open narrowed coronary arteries), and coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery between Medicare Advantage and Medicare FFS beneficiaries living in the same communities.

The study, which included 878,339 Medicare Advantage patients and 5,013,650 Medicare FFS patients older than 65 years of age, compared rates of these procedures between 2003-2007 across 32 hospital referral regions (HHRs) in 12 states.

The researchers found that compared with Medicare FFS patients, Medicare Advantage patients had lower age-, sex-, race-, and income-adjusted procedure rates for angiography and PCI but similar rates for CABG surgery. There were no differences between Medicare Advantage and Medicare FFS patients in the rates of urgent angiography. When examining procedure rates across HRRs, there was wide geographic variation among Medicare Advantage patients and Medicare FFS patients.
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About the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Hospital, Children's Hospital Colorado, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The school is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. To learn more about the medical school's care, education, research and community engagement, please visit its web site. For additional news and information, please visit the University of Colorado Denver newsroom

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