Pay-for-performance (P4P) programs have become a popular policy tool aimed at improving health care quality. We analyze how incentive design affects quality improvements in the nursing home setting, where several state Medicaid agencies have implemented P4P programs that vary in incentive structure. Using the Minimum Data Set and the Online Survey, Certification, and Reporting data from 2001 to 2009, we examine how the weights put on various performance measures that are tied to P4P bonuses, such as clinical outcomes, inspection deficiencies, and staffing levels, affect improvements in those measures. We find larger weights on clinical outcomes often lead to larger improvements, but small weights can lead to no improvement or worsening of some clinical outcomes. We find a qualifier for P4P eligibility based on having few or no severe inspection deficiencies is more effective at decreasing inspection deficiencies than using weights, suggesting simple rules for participation may incent larger improvement.
Keywords: incentive design; long-term care; nursing home quality; pay-for-performance.