Objective: To determine how reliance on Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical care among veterans enrolled in Medicare is affected by medical conditions, access, and patient characteristics.
Data sources/study setting: Department of Veterans Affairs.
Study design: We examined reliance on the VA for inpatient, outpatient, and overall medical care among all VA users in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 who were also enrolled in Medicare. We calculated the marginal effects of patient factors on VA reliance using fractional logistic regression; we also analyzed overall VA reliance separately for under-65 and age-65+ groups. The primary focus of this analysis was the relationship between aggregated condition categories (ACCs), which represent medical conditions, and reliance on the VA.
Principal findings: Mean VA reliance was significantly higher in the under-65 population than in the age-65+ group (0.800 versus 0.531). Lower differential distance to the VA, and higher VA-determined priority for health care, predicted higher VA reliance. Most individual ACCs were negatively associated with VA reliance, though substance abuse and mental health disorders were significantly associated with increased reliance on VA care. Conditions of the eyes and ears/nose/throat had positive marginal effect on VA reliance for the under 65, while diabetes was positive for age 65+. Among inpatients, veterans with ACCs for mental health conditions, eye conditions, amputations, or infectious and parasitic conditions had higher likelihood of a VA hospitalization than inpatients without these conditions.
Conclusions: Many dually enrolled Veterans use both Medicare and VA health care. Age, accessibility, and priority level for VA services have a clear relationship with VA reliance. Because dual use is common, coordination of care among health care settings for such patients should be a policy priority.