Association of Hospital Participation in a Medicare Bundled Payment Program With Volume and Case Mix of Lower Extremity Joint Replacement Episodes

Abstract [from journal]

Importance: Medicare’s Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative for lower extremity joint replacement (LEJR) surgery has been associated with a reduction in episode spending and stable-to-improved quality. However, BPCI may create unintended effects by prompting participating hospitals to increase the overall volume of episodes paid for by Medicare, which could potentially eliminate program-related savings or prompt them to shift case mix to lower-risk patients.

Objective: To evaluate whether hospital BPCI participation for LEJR was associated with changes in overall volume and case mix.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Observational study using Medicare claims data and a difference-in-differences method to compare 131 markets (hospital referral regions) with at least 1 BPCI participant hospital (n = 322) and 175 markets with no participating hospitals (n = 1340), accounting for 580 043 Medicare beneficiaries treated before (January 2011-September 2013) and 462 161 after (October 2013-December 2015) establishing the BPCI initiative. Hospital-level case-mix changes were assessed by comparing 265 participating hospitals with a 1:1 propensity-matched set of nonparticipating hospitals from non-BPCI markets.

Exposures: Hospital BPCI participation.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Changes in market-level LEJR volume in the before vs after BPCI periods and changes in hospital-level case mix based on demographic, socioeconomic, clinical, and utilization factors.

Results: Among the 1 717 243 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent LEJR (mean age, 75 years; 64% women; and 95% nonblack race/ethnicity), BPCI participation was not significantly associated with a change in overall market-level volume. The mean quarterly market volume in non-BPCI markets increased 3.8% from 3.8 episodes per 1000 beneficiaries before BPCI to 3.9 episodes per 1000 beneficiaries after BPCI was launched. For BPCI markets, the mean quarterly market volume increased 4.4% from 3.6 episodes per 1000 beneficiaries before BPCI to 3.8 episodes per 1000 beneficiaries after BPCI was launched. The adjusted difference-in-differences estimate between the market types was 0.32% (95% CI, −0.06% to 0.69%; P = .10). Among 20 demographic, socioeconomic, clinical, and utilization factors, BPCI participation was associated with differential changes in hospital-level case mix for only 1 factor, prior skilled nursing facility use (adjusted difference-in-differences estimate, −0.53%; 95% CI, −0.96% to −0.10%; P = .01) in BPCI vs non-BPCI markets.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this observational study of Medicare beneficiaries who underwent LEJR, hospital participation in Bundled Payments for Care Improvement was not associated with changes in market-level lower extremity joint replacement volume and largely was not associated with changes in hospital case mix. These findings may provide reassurance regarding 2 potential unintended effects associated with bundled payments for LEJR.