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Provider Incentives and Healthcare Costs: Evidence from Long-Term Care Hospitals

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  • Liran Einav
  • Amy Finkelstein
  • Neale Mahoney

Abstract

We study the design of provider incentives in the post-acute care setting – a high-stakes but under-studied segment of the healthcare system. We focus on long-term care hospitals (LTCHs) and the large (approximately $13,000) jump in Medicare payments they receive when a patient's stay reaches a threshold number of days. The descriptive evidence indicates that discharges increase substantially after the threshold, and that the marginal patient discharged after the threshold is in relatively better health. Despite the large financial incentives and behavioral response in a high mortality population, we are unable to detect any compelling evidence of an impact on patient mortality. To assess provider behavior under counterfactual payment schedules, we estimate a simple dynamic discrete choice model of LTCH discharge decisions. When we conservatively limit ourselves to alternative contracts that hold the LTCH harmless, we find that an alternative contract can generate Medicare savings of about $2,100 per admission, or about 5% of total payments. More aggressive payment reforms can generate substantially greater savings, but the accompanying reduction in LTCH profits has potential out-of-sample consequences. Our results highlight how improved financial incentives may be able to reduce healthcare spending, without negative consequences for industry profits or patient health.

Suggested Citation

  • Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Neale Mahoney, 2017. "Provider Incentives and Healthcare Costs: Evidence from Long-Term Care Hospitals," NBER Working Papers 23100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23100
    Note: AG HC IO PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
    2. Jerome Adda & Russell W. Cooper, 2003. "Dynamic Economics: Quantitative Methods and Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262012014, January.
    3. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein & Paul Schrimpf, 2015. "The Response of Drug Expenditure to Nonlinear Contract Design: Evidence from Medicare Part D," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(2), pages 841-899.
    4. Paul J. Eliason & Paul L. E. Grieco & Ryan C. McDevitt & James W. Roberts, 2016. "Strategic Patient Discharge: The Case of Long-Term Care Hospitals," NBER Working Papers 22598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Cutler, David M. & Zeckhauser, Richard J., 2000. "The anatomy of health insurance," Handbook of Health Economics,in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 563-643 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Liran Einav & Amy Finkelstein, 2017. "Moral Hazard in Health Insurance: What We Know and How We Know It," NBER Working Papers 24055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Steve Cicala & Ethan M.J. Lieber & Victoria Marone, 2017. "Cost of Service Regulation in U.S. Health Care: Minimum Medical Loss Ratios," NBER Working Papers 23353, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm

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