Context: Enrollment in Medicaid managed care plans has increased more than 5-fold in this decade, but how states monitor and encourage quality of care in these programs is not known.
Objective: To characterize the quality monitoring and assurance activities of state Medicaid agencies for Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in comprehensive prepaid managed care programs.
Design: Structured telephone survey conducted between October 1996 and January 1997.
Setting: State Medicaid agencies.
Participants: Representatives from all state Medicaid agencies, including the District of Columbia, with beneficiaries enrolled in comprehensive prepaid managed care plans as of July 1, 1996.
Main outcome measures: Proportion of states with specific quality monitoring and assurance activities for Medicaid managed care.
Results: We surveyed all 34 states enrolling beneficiaries in comprehensive managed care programs. In 1996, all 34 states enrolled the population receiving assistance from the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, while only 21 (62%) and 15 (44%) enrolled the disabled and elderly populations, respectively. In the period 1995 to 1996, 19 states (63%) collected data on satisfaction with care, and 25 states (83%) collected data on childhood immunizations. No more than half of the states collected data on other selected measures of access and quality, but a substantial number planned to collect such data in 1997. While at most 37% of states were providing comparative data to health plans, up to 80% were planning to provide such information in 1997. Similarly, while at most 10% of states provided beneficiaries with such information, up to 38% planned to do so in 1997. The breadth of contracting requirements designed to assure quality varied substantially across states.
Conclusions: State Medicaid agencies have already begun adapting to their new roles as purchasers of health care. Continued monitoring is essential to ensure that state agencies implement planned programs and that quality of care for Medicaid enrollees is preserved or improved.