Massachusetts will ask Medicaid patients about quality of care


In 2018, MassHealth care providers were organized into 17 accountable care organizations (networks of doctors and hospitals). Beginning this month, 250,000 Medicaid recipients will be asked questions about the quality of their care by their Medicaid providers. Massachusetts plans to release the survey results in 2020. Follow our link to the Boston Globe article which explains the process in more detail: Read More.

Massachusetts will ask Medicaid patients about quality of care

By Liz Kowalczyk | Boston Globe

Privately insured patients have been asked to rate their medical providers for years. Now, for the first time, Massachusetts is seeking the opinions of thousands of Medicaid recipients about their experiences in the doctor’s office.

Beginning this month, nearly 250,000 low-income and disabled patients will be asked questions such as whether they or their children were able to get appointments when they needed them, whether doctors and office staff communicated respectfully, and whether their mental health treatment actually improved their ability to work or attend school.

The results will give state officials a window into how well Medicaid providers care for patients amid a significant restructuring of the program. And the information will allow the state to direct higher payments to better performers. Eventually, officials plan to publicly release some results, allowing Medicaid recipients to compare the quality of provider networks.

“This is a big step in engaging directly with consumers,’’ said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.

The state plans to make results of the 2019 “patient experience’’ survey public in early 2020, Sharon Torgerson, agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. But the public information will not be as detailed as it is for privately insured residents, and some say the state should go further to address this disparity.

The nationwide movement to make the cost and quality of health care more transparent has largely bypassed state Medicaid programs. Little is known about how well Medicaid providers do their jobs, despite the immensity of these programs.

Some states ask Medicaid recipients about the quality of their care, but it’s rare to make that information public, said Dr. Michael Hochman, a professor at the University of Southern California who recently wrote about the topic for the journal Health Affairs. California, for example, reports quality measures for large health plans, but that is not useful for consumers looking for guidance on choosing a doctor.

“Historically, one concern is that the safety net sector is fragile and any extra pressure could cause providers to go under by embarrassing providers,’’ Hochman said. “We can’t push them too hard.’’

Also, because Medicaid programs generally pay providers less than private insurers, doctors who treat large numbers of Medicaid patients traditionally could not afford the necessary computer technology to track patients’ care. But Hochman said that is no longer the case.

Instead, he believes that Medicaid providers who provide poor care and have long waits for appointments simply don’t want that exposed. “There are a lot of people who make a lot of money on the safety net,’’ Hochman said.

Taxpayers have a stake in ensuring quality, too. MassHealth is the single largest chunk of the state budget, with costs of about $16 billion a year, although the federal government pays about half.

“This is really groundbreaking work on the part of the state,’’ said Barbra Rabson, president of Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, a nonprofit group the state has hired to conduct the survey. But, she said, “it is one small piece of a very big puzzle.’’ Continue Reading

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