Association Between the Implementation of a Population-Based Primary Care Payment System and Achievement on Quality Measures in Hawaii

JAMA. 2019 Jul 2;322(1):57-68. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.8113.


Importance: Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, introduced Population-based Payments for Primary Care (3PC), a new capitation-based primary care payment system, in 2016. The effect of this system on quality measures has not been evaluated.

Objective: To evaluate whether the 3PC system was associated with changes in quality, utilization, or spending in its first year.

Design, setting, and participants: Observational study using HMSA claims and clinical registry data from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2016, and a propensity-weighted difference-in-differences method to compare 77 225 HMSA members in Hawaii attributed to 107 primary care physicians (PCPs) and 4 physician organizations participating in the first wave of the 3PC and 222 233 members attributed to 312 PCPs and 14 physician organizations that continued in a fee-for-service model in 2016 but had 3PC start dates thereafter.

Exposures: Participation in the 3PC system.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was the change in a composite measure score reflecting the probability that a member achieved an eligible measure out of 13 pooled Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set quality measures. Primary care visits and total cost of care were among 15 secondary outcomes.

Results: In total, the study included 299 458 HMSA members (mean age, 42.1 years; 51.5% women) and 419 primary care physicians (mean age, 54.9 years; 34.8% women). The risk-standardized composite measure scores for 2012 to 2016 changed from 75.1% to 86.6% (+11.5 percentage points) in the 3PC group and 74.3% to 83.5% (+9.2 percentage points) in the non-3PC group (differential change, 2.3 percentage points [95% CI, 2.1 to 2.6 percentage points]; P < .001). Of 15 prespecified secondary end points for utilization and spending, 11 showed no significant difference. Compared with the non-3PC group, the 3PC system was associated with a significant reduction in the mean number of primary care visits (3.3 to 3.0 visits vs 3.3 to 3.1 visits; adjusted differential change, -3.9 percentage points [95% CI, -4.6 to -3.2 percentage points]; P < .001), but there was no significant difference in mean total cost of care ($3344 to $4087 vs $2977 to $3564; adjusted differential change, 1.0% [95% CI, -1.3% to 3.4%]; P = .39).

Conclusions and relevance: In its first year, the 3PC population-based primary care payment system in Hawaii was associated with small improvements in quality and a reduction in PCP visits but no significant difference in the total cost of care. Additional research is needed to assess longer-term outcomes as the program is more fully implemented and to determine whether results are generalizable to other health care markets.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance Plans / economics*
  • Capitation Fee
  • Cost Savings
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Primary Care
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Reimbursement Mechanisms*