Do Financial Incentives Matter? Effects Of Medicare Price Shocks On Skilled Nursing Facility Care

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Health Economics


Skilled nursing facility (SNF) spending has been one of the fastest growing categories of Medicare spending over the past few decades, and reductions in SNF payments are often recommended as part of Medicare cost containment efforts. Using a quasi‐experiment resulting from a policy‐driven and facility‐specific Medicare payment change, we provide new evidence on how Medicare payment changes affect the amount of SNF care provided to Medicare patients. Specifically, we examine a one‐time, plausibly exogenous change in the hospital wage index, an area‐level adjustment to SNF payments that affected the majority of SNFs nationwide. Using a panel dataset of SNFs, we model the effects of these payment changes on more than 12,000 SNFs across the United States. We find that increases in Medicare payment rates to SNFs increased the total number of Medicare resident days at SNFs. Specifically, a 5% payment increase raised Medicare resident days by 2.33% at facilities with a 10% Medicare share relative to 0%. Further, the effects were asymmetric: Although Medicare payment increases affected Medicare days, payment decreases did not. Our results have important implications for policies that alter the Medicare base payment rates to SNFs and other health care providers.