Physicians More Likely to Face Quality Incentives than Incentives ThatMay Restrain Care

Publication Date: January 2002

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Jeffrey Stoddard; Joy M. Grossman; Liza Rudell

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


Concerns that physician financial incentives may lead to withholding needed care have caught the attention of legislators, regulators and even the U.S. Supreme Court. While the spotlight has been on how health plans reimburse physician practices, this Issue Brief provides unique nationally representative data on physician practices' use of incentives, which have a more direct effect on physician behavior. According to 1999 data from the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), physicians are more likely to be subject to incentives that may encourage use of services, such as patient satisfaction (24 percent) and quality (19 percent), than to financial incentives that may restrain care, such as profiling (14 percent). The complexity of physician financial incentives and their relatively low prevalence raise questions about effective regulation and public reporting of their use.