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How do Doctors Respond to Incentives? Unintended Consequences of Paying Doctors to Reduce Costs

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  • Alexander, Diane

    () (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

Abstract

Billions of dollars have been spent on pilot programs searching for ways to reduce healthcare costs. I study one such program, where hospitals pay doctors bonuses for reducing the total hospital costs of admitted Medicare patients (a “bundled payment”). Doctors respond to the bonuses by becoming more likely to admit patients whose treatment can generate high bonuses, and sorting healthier patients into participating hospitals. Conditional on patient health, however, doctors do not reduce costs or change procedure use. These results highlight the ability of doctors to game incentive schemes, and the risks of basing nationwide healthcare reforms on pilot programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander, Diane, 2017. "How do Doctors Respond to Incentives? Unintended Consequences of Paying Doctors to Reduce Costs," Working Paper Series WP-2017-9, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-2017-09
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey Clemens & Joshua D. Gottlieb, 2014. "Do Physicians' Financial Incentives Affect Medical Treatment and Patient Health?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1320-1349, April.
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    5. Jonathan T. Kolstad, 2013. "Information and Quality When Motivation Is Intrinsic: Evidence from Surgeon Report Cards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2875-2910, December.
    6. Jonathan T. Kolstad, 2013. "Information and Quality when Motivation is Intrinsic: Evidence from Surgeon Report Cards," NBER Working Papers 18804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alexander, Diane, 2015. "Does Physician Pay Affect Procedure Choice and Patient Health? Evidence from Medicaid C-section Use," Working Paper Series WP-2017-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    8. Yip, Winnie C., 1998. "Physician response to Medicare fee reductions: changes in the volume of coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgeries in the Medicare and private sectors," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 675-699, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Caitlin Carroll & Michael Chernew & A. Mark Fendrick & Joe Thompson & Sherri Rose, 2017. "Effects of Episode-Based Payment on Health Care Spending and Utilization: Evidence from Perinatal Care in Arkansas," NBER Working Papers 23926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Health care reform; Medicare;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I13 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Insurance, Public and Private
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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