Characteristics, utilization, and concentration of outpatient care for dual-eligible Medicare beneficiaries

Am J Manag Care. 2022 Oct 1;28(10):e370-e377. doi: 10.37765/ajmc.2022.89189.


Objectives: To characterize the (1) distribution of outpatient care for dual-eligible Medicare beneficiaries ("duals") and (2) intensity of outpatient care utilization of duals vs non-dual-eligible beneficiaries ("nonduals").

Study design: Using data preceding the introduction of several outpatient alternative payment models, as well as Medicaid expansion, we evaluated the distribution of outpatient care across physician practices using a Lorenz curve and compared utilization of different outpatient services between duals and nonduals.

Methods: We defined practices that did (high dual) and did not (low dual and no dual) account for the large majority of visits based on the Lorenz curve and then performed descriptive statistics between these groups of practices. Practice-level outcomes included patient demographics, practice characteristics, and county measures of structural disadvantage and population health. Patient-level outcomes included number of outpatient visits and unique outpatient physicians, primary vs subspecialty care visits, and expenditures.

Results: Nearly 80% of outpatient visits for duals were provided by 35% of practices. Compared with low-dual and no-dual practices, high-dual practices served more patients (1117.6 patients per high-dual practice vs 683.8 patients per low-dual practice and 447.5 patients per no-dual practice; P < .001) with more comorbidities (3.9 mean total Elixhauser comorbidities among patients served by high-dual practices vs 3.6 among low-dual practices and 3.3 among no-dual practices; P < .001). With regard to utilization, duals had 2 fewer outpatient visits per year compared with nonduals (13.3 vs 15.2; P < .001), with particularly fewer subspecialty care visits (6.5 vs 7.9; P < .001) despite having more comorbidities (3.5 vs 2.7; P < .001).

Conclusions: Outpatient care for duals was concentrated among a small number of practices. Despite having more chronic conditions, duals had fewer outpatient visits. Duals and the practices that serve them may benefit from targeted policies to promote access and improve outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Chronic Disease
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Medicaid*
  • Medicare*
  • United States