“Implications of cost-sharing for observation care among Medicare beneficiaries: a pilot survey”

Goldstein JN, Schwartz JS, McGraw P, Hicks LS

BMC Health Serv Res 2019 Mar;19(1):149

PMID: 30845953


BACKGROUND: Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized under observation status have significant cost-sharing responsibilities under Medicare Part B. Prior work has demonstrated an association between increased cost-sharing and health care rationing among low-income Medicare beneficiaries. The objective of this study was to explore the potential impact of observation cost-sharing on future medical decision making of Medicare beneficiaries.

METHODS: Single-center pilot cohort study. A convenience sample of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized under observation status care was surveyed.

RESULTS: Out of 144 respondents, low-income beneficiaries were more likely to be concerned about the cost of their observation stay than higher-income respondents (70.7% vs29.3%, p = 0.015). If hospitalized under observation status again, there was a trend among low-income beneficiaries to request completion of their workup outside of the hospital (56.3% vs 43.8%), and to consider leaving against medical advice (AMA) (100% vs 0%), though these trends were not statistically significant (p = 0.30).

CONCLUSION: The results of this pilot study suggest that low-income Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized under observation status have greater concerns about their cost-sharing obligations than their higher income peers. Cost-sharing for observation care may have unintended consequences on utilization for low-income beneficiaries. Future studies should examine this potential relationship on a larger scale.

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