Background: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes star ratings on Medicare Advantage (MA) contracts to measure plan quality of care with implications for reimbursement and bonuses.
Objective: To investigate whether MA contract characteristics are associated with quality of care through the Medicare plan star ratings.
Design: Retrospective study of MA star ratings in 2010. Unadjusted and adjusted multivariable linear regression models assessed the relationship between 5-star rating summary scores and plan characteristics.
Setting: CMS MA contracts nationally.
Participants: 409 (71%) of a total of 575 MA contracts, covering 10.56 million Medicare beneficiaries (90% of the MA population) in the United States in 2010.
Measurements: The MA quality ratings summary score (stars range from 1 to 5) is a quality measure based on 36 indicators related to processes of care, health outcomes, access to care, and beneficiary satisfaction.
Results: Nonprofit, larger, and older MA contracts were more likely to receive higher star ratings. Star ratings ranged from 2 to 5. Nonprofit contracts received an average 0.55 (95% CI, 0.42 to 0.67) higher star ratings than for-profit contracts (P < 0.001) after controls were set for contract characteristics.
Limitation: The study focused on persons aged 65 years or older covered by MA.
Conclusion: In 2010, nonprofit MA contracts received significantly higher star ratings than for-profit contracts. When comparing health plans in the future, the CMS should give increasing attention to for-profit plans with lower quality ratings and consider developing programs to assist newer and smaller plans in improving their care for Medicare beneficiaries.
Primary Funding Source: None.