Medicare’s Bundled Payment Model Did Not Change Skilled Nursing Facility Discharge Patterns

Abstract [from journal]

Objectives: To evaluate whether participation in Medicare’s voluntary Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) model was associated with changes in discharge referral patterns to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), specifically number of SNF partners and discharge concentration.

Study Design: Retrospective observational study using difference-in-differences analysis.

Methods: We used Medicare claims data from 2010 to 2015 to identify admissions for lower joint replacement surgery and the following medical conditions: congestive heart failure, renal failure, sepsis, pneumonia, urinary tract and kidney infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and stroke. We used difference-in-differences analyses to assess changes in discharge patterns among BPCI-participating hospitals compared with matched control hospitals.

Results: Our analytic sample included 3078 acute care hospitals and 14,866 Medicare-certified SNFs in the United States, encompassing more than 47 million hospital discharges. Of these hospitals, 416 participated in BPCI, with the majority selecting into joint replacement episodes (n = 295). BPCI participation was not associated with any change in number of SNF partners (increase by 0.8 SNFs among BPCI hospitals relative to non-BPCI hospitals; 95% CI, –0.2 to 1.9; P = .11) or in discharge concentration (increase in Herfindahl-Hirschman Index of 0.2 among BPCI hospitals relative to non-BPCI hospitals; 95% CI, –68.7 to 69.1; P = .36). Results did not vary across clinical conditions and were robust across duration of BPCI participation and with different comparison groups.

Conclusions: Hospital participation in BPCI was not associated with changes in the number of SNF partners or in discharge concentration relative to non-BPCI hospitals. More research is needed to understand how hospitals are responding to bundled payment incentives and specific practices that contribute to improvements in cost and quality.