Do competition and managed care improve quality?

Health Econ. 2002 Oct;11(7):571-84. doi: 10.1002/hec.726.


In recent years, the US health care industry has experienced a rapid growth of managed care, formation of networks, and an integration of hospitals. This paper provides new insights about the quality consequences of this dynamic in US hospital markets. I empirically investigate the impact of managed care and hospital competition on quality using in-hospital complications as quality measures. I use random and fixed effects, and instrumental variable fixed effect models using hospital panel data from up to 16 states in the 1992-1997 period. The paper has two important findings: First, higher managed care penetration increases the quality, when inappropriate utilization, wound infections and adverse/iatrogenic complications are used as quality indicators. For other complication categories, coefficient estimates are statistically insignificant. These findings do not support the straightforward view that increases in managed care penetration are associated with decreases in quality. Second, both higher hospital market share and market concentration are associated with lower quality of care. Hospital mergers have undesirable quality consequences. Appropriate antitrust policies towards mergers should consider not only price and cost but also quality impacts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antitrust Laws
  • Economic Competition / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Facility Merger / economics
  • Health Facility Merger / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitals / standards*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Managed Care Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care* / economics
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology*
  • United States