Rural And Urban Medicare Beneficiaries Use Remarkably Similar Amounts Of Health Care Services

Health Affairs: 10/30/13

Medicare payment policies for rural health care providers are influenced by the assumption that the limited supply of physicians in rural areas causes rural Medicare beneficiaries to receive fewer health care services than their urban counterparts do. This assumption has contributed to the growth in special payments to rural providers. As a result, Medicare pays rural providers $3 billion more each year in special payments than they would receive under traditional payment rates. To test the validity of the assumption that rural beneficiaries systematically receive less care, we analyzed claims data for all Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries in 2008, stratified by rural/urban status and region. After adjusting for health status, we found no significant differences between rural and urban beneficiaries in either the amount of health care received or satisfaction with access to care. Read more