To examine the relationship between federally qualified health center (FQHC) use and hospital-based care among individuals dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid.
Data were obtained from 2012 to 2018 Medicare claims.
We modeled hospital-based care as a function of FQHC use, person-level factors, a Medicare prospective payment system (PPS) indicator, and ZIP code fixed effects. Outcomes included emergency department (ED) visits (overall and nonemergent), observation stays, hospitalizations (overall and for ambulatory care sensitive conditions), and 30-day unplanned returns. We stratified all models on the basis of eligibility and rurality.
Data Extraction Methods
Our sample included individuals dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid for at least two full consecutive years, residing in a primary care service area with an FQHC. We excluded individuals without primary care visits, who died, or had end-stage renal disease.
After the Medicare PPS was introduced, FQHC use in rural counties was associated with fewer ED and nonemergent ED visits per 100 person-years among both age-eligible (−14.8 [−17.5, −12.1]; −6.6 [−7.5, −5.6]) and disability-eligible duals (−11.3 [−14.4, −8.3]; −6 [−7.4, −4.6]) as well as a lower probability of observation stays (−0.8 pp age-eligible; −0.4 pp disability-eligible) and unplanned returns (−2.1 pp age-eligible; −1.9 pp disability-eligible). In urban counties, FQHC use was associated with more ED and nonemergent ED visits per 100 person-years (10.6 [8.4, 12.8]; 4.0 [2.6, 5.4]) among disability-eligible duals (a decrease of more than 60% compared with the pre-PPS period) and increases in the probability of hospitalization (1.1 pp age-eligible; 0.8 pp disability-eligible) and ACS hospitalization (0.5 pp age-eligible; 0.3 pp disability-eligible) (a decrease of roughly 50% compared with the pre-PPS period).
FQHC use is associated with reductions in hospital-based care among dual enrollees after introduction of the Medicare PPS. Further research is needed to understand how FQHCs can tailor care to best serve this complex population.