Importance: Although dual eligibility (DE) status for Medicare and Medicaid has been used for social risk stratification in value-based payment programs, little is known about the interplay between hospital quality and disparities in outcomes and spending by social risk.
Objective: To assess whether treatment at high-quality hospitals mitigates DE-associated disparities in outcomes and spending for cancer surgery.
Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective cohort study from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2018, evaluating inpatient surgery at acute care hospitals. A total of 119 757 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older who underwent colectomy, rectal resection, lung resection, or pancreatectomy were evaluated. Data were analyzed between November 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021.
Exposures: Medicare and Medicaid DE status and hospital quality.
Main outcomes and measures: Postoperative complications, readmission, and mortality by DE status and hospital quality.
Results: Overall, 119 757 Medicare beneficiaries underwent colectomy, rectal resection, lung resection, or pancreatectomy. The mean (SD) age was 75.3 (6.7) years, 61 617 (51.5%) were women, 7677 (6.4%) were Black, 106 099 (88.6%) were White, and 5981 (5.0%) identified as another race or ethnicity; 11.3% had DE status. Dually eligible patients were more likely to be discharged to a facility (colectomy, 15.0% [95% CI, 14.7%-15.3%] vs 23.9% [95% CI, 22.9%-24.9%]; proctectomy, 18.7% [95% CI, 18.0%-19.3%] vs 26.9% [95% CI, 24.9%-28.9%]; lung resection, 11.0% [95% CI, 10.7%-11.3%] vs 17.9% [95% CI, 16.8%-18.9%]; pancreatectomy, 23.5% [95% CI, 22.5%-24.4%] vs 30.0% [95% CI, 26.5%-33.5%]). Differences in postacute care use persisted even after accounting for postoperative complications and contributed to variation in spending. Compared with the lowest-quality hospitals, DE patients had improved rates of discharge to a facility (22.7% vs 19.3%) and spending ($22 577 vs $20 100) but rates remained increased compared with Medicare patients even at the highest-quality hospitals.
Conclusions and relevance: The findings of this study indicate that, even among the highest-quality hospitals, DE patients had poorer outcomes and higher spending. Dually eligible patients were more likely to be discharged to a facility and therefore incurred higher postacute care costs. Although treatment at high-quality hospitals is associated with reduced differences in outcomes, DE patients remain at high risk for adverse postoperative outcomes and increased readmissions and postacute care use.