Unintended Effects of High-Stakes Performance Incentives: Evidence from Organ Transplant
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) markedly increased the stakes associated with poor report card performance. CMS issued Conditions of Participation (CoP) to transplant centers that explicitly tie the availability of public funding to report card outcomes, giving CMS the authority to shut down transplant programs, or entire centers if performance falls below accepted standards (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, 2009). In this paper, we test for strategic behavior at the center-level in response to flagging in a single organ program. Specifically, we examine the effect of first and second reports of poor performance for adult kidney and liver programs on transplant volume, patient and graft outcomes for non-flagged heart, kidney, liver, and lung transplants before versus after the introduction of the CoP. We also test the extent that centers increase use of paired liver-kidney transplant, which has uncertain clinical benefit relative to liver transplant alone, but is not subject to quality reporting. Using a difference-in-differences design to analyze Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients registry data, we find some evidence that centers reduce volume in other organ programs and increase use of clinically uncertain procedures that are not subject to quality reporting in response to flagging.
As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services look to expand their use of VBP strategies, it will be important to continue assessing whether spillover effects of regulation restrict patient access to care.