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Treatment flows after outsourcing public insurance provision: Evidence from Florida Medicaid

Elizabeth Munnich, PhD Richards, M. R.
Health Economics. August 5, 2020

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While politics can determine what public goods are available, elected officials must decide on the method of allocation. Commonly, governments provide public health insurance directly or pay private parties to administer it on their behalf. Such contracting can leverage private sector expertise but also raises agency concerns. In particular, little is known about how private provision of public health insurance impacts medical decision‐making and treatment flows for low‐income populations. An example comes from the Medicaid program, which has increasingly relied on outside insurers to deliver health services to enrollees. We exploit a large legislative intervention in Florida to show that Medicaid managed care (MMC) organizations generally do not skimp on short‐run treatment delivery in the inpatient setting. In fact, patients with severe and chronic illnesses receive more inpatient services under these contracts, especially in relation to managing care transitions. We also document increased competition in the MMC market following the state’s policy intervention.