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JAMA. 2008 May 28;299(20):2406-12. doi: 10.1001/jama.299.20.2406.

Relationship between regional per capita Medicare expenditures and patient perceptions of quality of care.

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Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA 02125, USA.



Wide variations in Medicare expenditures exist across regions, but little is known about whether beneficiaries residing in low-expenditure regions perceive receiving lower-quality care than those in high-expenditure regions.


To evaluate how Medicare beneficiaries' perceptions of their health care are related to per capita expenditure in the areas where they live. DESIGN, SETTING, AND RESPONDENTS: A probability sample of Medicare beneficiaries living in households in the United States was surveyed by a combination of mail and telephone in 2005. Each respondent was allocated to 1 of 5 quintiles, depending on mean age-, sex-, and race-adjusted per capita Medicare expenditures based on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services claims data.


The survey included 3 questions about perceived unmet need for care, 4 questions about the perceived quality of ambulatory care, and 3 questions rating the perceived quality of overall care.


Of 4000 Medicare beneficiaries sampled, 160 (4%) were ascertained to have died or to be living in a long-term care facility. Of the remaining 3840 potentially eligible beneficiaries, 2515 (65%) responded. Per capita expenditures were highly related to receiving more medical care, such as mean number of ambulatory visits to physicians in the past year (range from lowest to highest expenditure quintile, 3.4-3.9; P < .001 for linear trend) and more cardiac tests (respondents reporting receiving tests in past year, 158/387 [40.1%] to 468/739 [63.5%]; P < .001 for linear trend). However, 7 of the 10 measures of perceived quality, including perceived unmet needs for tests and treatment (respondents reporting unmet needs, 15/387 [3.9%] to 37/739 [5.0%]; P = .25 for linear trend) and spending enough time with physicians (respondents reporting adequate time, 311/387 [88.7%] to 603/739 [87.0%]; P = .94 for linear trend), were unrelated to expenditures, while the overall rating of perceived quality of care was higher in the lower-expenditure areas (respondents reporting overall care rating of 9 or 10, 242/387 [63.3%] to 404/739 [55.4%]; P = .008 for linear trend).


In this representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries, no consistent association was observed between the mean per capita expenditure in a geographic area and the perceptions of the quality of medical care of the people who live in those areas.

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