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First-dollar cost-sharing for skilled nursing facility care in medicare advantage plans.



The initial days of a Medicare-covered skilled nursing facility (SNF) stay may have no cost-sharing or daily copayments depending on beneficiaries' enrollment in traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage. Some policymakers have advocated imposing first-dollar cost-sharing to reduce post-acute expenditures. We examined the relationship between first-dollar cost-sharing for a SNF stay and use of inpatient and SNF services.


We identified seven Medicare Advantage plans that introduced daily SNF copayments of $25-$150 in 2009 or 2010. Copays began on the first day of a SNF admission. We matched these plans to seven matched control plans that did not introduce first-dollar cost-sharing. In a difference-in-differences analysis, we compared changes in SNF and inpatient utilization for the 172,958 members of intervention and control plans.


In intervention plans the mean annual number of SNF days per 100 continuously enrolled inpatients decreased from 768.3 to 750.6 days when cost-sharing changes took effect. Control plans experienced a concurrent increase: 721.7 to 808.1 SNF days per 100 inpatients (adjusted difference-in-differences: -87.0 days [95% CI (-112.1,-61.9)]). In intervention plans, we observed no significant changes in the probability of any SNF service use or the number of inpatient days per hospitalized member relative to concurrent trends among control plans.


Among several strategies Medicare Advantage plans can employ to moderate SNF use, first-dollar SNF cost-sharing may be one influential factor.

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