Report: Nonprofit health plans offer better care for Medicare recipients

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Nonprofit health plans provide better quality care for Medicare beneficiaries compared to for-profit plans, according to a report in the American Journal of Medicine.

Such information could be troubling because two-thirds of plans that enroll Medicare patients are for-profit, according to Dr. Eric C. Schneider of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Using data from 1998, Schneider and his team analyzed 231 health plans, which enrolled 283,249 beneficiaries.

For-profits scored lower than nonprofits for four measures of healthcare quality: breast cancer screening, diabetic eye examination, prescription of beta-blockers after heart attack, and follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness.

A couple reasons for the disparity: For-profit health plans may not be implementing the types of quality management efforts common in nonprofit plans. They also may be contracting with lower-quality providers.