Working Paper 03/089 - Abstract

Incentives in HMO's (PDF, file 646 KB) (PDF, 646kB)

Martin Gaynor, James B Rebitzer and Lowell J Taylor

We study the effect of physician incentives in an HMO network. Physician incentives are controversial because they may induce doctors to make treatment decisions that differ from those they would chose in absence of incentives. We set out a theoretical framework for assessing the degree to which incentive contracts do in fact induce physicians to deviate from a standard guided only by patient interests and professional medical judgement. Our empirical evaluation of the model relies on details of the HMO's incentive contracts and access to the firm's internal expenditure records. We estimate that the HMO's incentive contract provides a typical physician an increase, at the margin of 0.10 dollars in income for each 1.00 dollar reduction in medical utilisation expenditures. The average response is a 5% reduction in medical expenditures. We also find suggestive evidence that financial incentives linked to commonly used "quality" measure may stimulate an improvement in measured quality.

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