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Strategic Cost Management and Institutional Changes in Hospitals


  • Sylvia H. Hsu
  • Sandy Q. Qu


Accounting research raises the concern that firms in the health care and defence contracting industries, when facing a dual payment system with both cost-based and fixed-rate payments, have an incentive to reallocate overhead costs through increasing inputs used in cost-based operations. However, prior literature reports contradictory empirical evidence regarding such real activity manipulation. Drawing on the institutional perspective, we hypothesise that firms' market power and interorganisational dependence affect their cost-management strategies and choice of overhead allocation in response to dual payment systems. Analysing the data of California hospitals from 1980 to 1991, we find that when facing a dual payment system, dominant (strong market position) hospitals adopt a cost-revenue-enhancing strategy, increasing direct costs for cost-based services without containing costs in fixed-rate services. In contrast, nondominant hospitals choose a cost-reduction strategy and improve operation efficiency on fixed-rate services. We also find that nondominant hospitals shift more overhead costs away from fixed-rate services to cost-based services by reclassifying the allocation bases across services; combining this cost shifting with the cost-reduction strategy, nondominant hospitals demonstrate the compliance with the regulation expectation of cost containment.

Suggested Citation

  • Sylvia H. Hsu & Sandy Q. Qu, 2012. "Strategic Cost Management and Institutional Changes in Hospitals," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 499-531, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:21:y:2012:i:3:p:499-531
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180.2012.658152

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laurence C. Baker & Sharmila Shankarkumar, 1997. "Managed Care and Health Care Expenditures: Evidence From Medicare," NBER Working Papers 6187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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