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Concept: Commonwealth Fund


Background Spending and quality under global budgets remain unknown beyond 2 years. We evaluated spending and quality measures during the first 4 years of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Alternative Quality Contract (AQC). Methods We compared spending and quality among enrollees whose physician organizations entered the AQC from 2009 through 2012 with those among persons in control states. We studied spending changes according to year, category of service, site of care, experience managing risk contracts, and price versus utilization. We evaluated process and outcome quality. Results In the 2009 AQC cohort, medical spending on claims grew an average of $62.21 per enrollee per quarter less than it did in the control cohort over the 4-year period (P<0.001). This amount is equivalent to a 6.8% savings when calculated as a proportion of the average post-AQC spending level in the 2009 AQC cohort. Analogously, the 2010, 2011, and 2012 cohorts had average savings of 8.8% (P<0.001), 9.1% (P<0.001), and 5.8% (P=0.04), respectively, by the end of 2012. Claims savings were concentrated in the outpatient-facility setting and in procedures, imaging, and tests, explained by both reduced prices and reduced utilization. Claims savings were exceeded by incentive payments to providers during the period from 2009 through 2011 but exceeded incentive payments in 2012, generating net savings. Improvements in quality among AQC cohorts generally exceeded those seen elsewhere in New England and nationally. Conclusions As compared with similar populations in other states, Massachusetts AQC enrollees had lower spending growth and generally greater quality improvements after 4 years. Although other factors in Massachusetts may have contributed, particularly in the later part of the study period, global budget contracts with quality incentives may encourage changes in practice patterns that help reduce spending and improve quality. (Funded by the Commonwealth Fund and others.).

Concepts: Health care, Massachusetts, Health care in the United States, Incentive, Budget, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Edward Harkness, Commonwealth Fund


After Congress’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, some policy leaders are calling for bipartisan approaches to address weaknesses in the law’s coverage expansions. To do this, policymakers will need data about trends in insurance coverage, reasons why people remain uninsured, and consumer perceptions of affordability.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Law, India, Common law, Pakistan, Edward Harkness, Commonwealth Fund


For people with low and moderate incomes, the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits have made premium costs roughly comparable to those paid by people with job-based health insurance. For those with higher incomes, the tax credits phase out, meaning that adults in marketplace plans on average have higher premium costs than those in employer plans. The law’s cost-sharing reductions are reducing deductibles. Lower-income adults in marketplace plans were less likely than higher-income adults to report having deductibles of $1,000 or more. Majorities of new marketplace enrollees and those who have changed plans since they initially obtained marketplace coverage are satisfied with the doctors participating in their plans. Overall, the majority of marketplace enrollees expressed confidence in their ability to afford care if they were to become seriously ill. This issue brief explores these and other findings from the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, February–April 2016.

Concepts: Health care, United Kingdom, Deductible, Plurality voting system, Majority, Taxation in the United States, Edward Harkness, Commonwealth Fund


The frequency of patient-reported health care-associated infections across several high-income countries was analyzed in representative population samples based on data from “The Commonwealth Fund’s 2011 International Survey of Sicker Adults in Eleven countries.” Across countries, 8.9% of patients who were hospitalized and/or had surgery reported an infection, but this rate varied considerably from 5.3% in the United States to 11.9% in New Zealand. Patients who reported infection were more likely to rate the quality of medical care received as fair or poor (odds ratio [OR], 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.9-3.1, P < .001). Female sex (OR, 1.2; 95% CI: 1.0-1.5, P = .027), reporting 2 or more chronic conditions (OR, 1.5; 95% CI: 1.1-2.0, P = .004), poor health (OR, 1.6; 95% CI: 1.2-2.1, P < .001), and surgery (OR, 1.8; 95% CI: 1.4-2.3, P < .001) were significant predictors for health care-associated infection across countries. Being above 64 years of age (OR, 0.78; 95% CI: 0.64-0.95, P = .013) and day-surgery (OR, 0.62; 95% CI: 0.48-0.79, P < .001) decreased the likelihood for reporting infection.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Hospital, Infection, Antiseptic, Nuisance parameter, Edward Harkness, Commonwealth Fund