Comparing The Effects Of Reference Pricing And Centers-Of-Excellence Approaches To Value-Based Benefit Design
Author: Hui Zhang, David W. Cowling, Matthew Facer
Various health insurance benefit designs based on value-based purchasing have been promoted to steer patients to high-value providers, but little is known about the designs’ relative effectiveness and underlying mechanisms. We compared the impact of two designs implemented by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System on inpatient hospital total hip or knee replacement: a reference-based pricing design for preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and a centers-of-excellence design for health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Payment and utilization data for the procedures in the period 2008–13 were evaluated using pre-post and quasi-experimental designs at the system and health plan levels, adjusting for demographic characteristics, case-mix, and other confounders. We found that both designs prompted higher use of designated low-price high-quality facilities and reduced average replacement expenses per member at the plan and system levels. However, the designs used different routes: The reference-based pricing design reduced average replacement payments per case in PPOs by 26.7 percent in the first year, compared to HMOs, but did not lower PPO members’ utilization rates. In contrast, the centers-of-excellence design lowered HMO members’ utilization rates by 29.2 percent in the first year, compared to PPOs, but did not reduce HMO average replacement payments per case. The reference-based pricing design appears more suitable for reducing price variation, and the centers-of-excellence design for addressing variation in use.