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Comparison of Health Outcomes for Male Seniors in the Veterans Health Administration and Medicare Advantage Plans

Objectives. To compare the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) with the Medicare Advantage (MA) plans with regard to health outcomes.

Data Sources. The Medicare Health Outcome Survey, the 1999 Large Health Survey of Veteran Enrollees, and the Ambulatory Care Survey of Healthcare Experiences of Patients (Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003).

Study Design. A retrospective study.

Extraction Methods. Men 65+ receiving care in MA (N=198,421) or in VHA (N=360,316). We compared the risk-adjusted probability of being alive with the same or better physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) health at 2-years follow-up. We computed hazard ratio (HR) for 2-year mortality.

Principal Findings. Veterans had a higher adjusted probability of being alive with the same or better PCS compared with MA participants (VHA 69.2 versus MA 63.6 percent, p<.001). VHA patients had a higher adjusted probability than MA patients of being alive with the same or better MCS (76.1 versus 69.6 percent, p<.001). The HRs for mortality in the MA were higher than in the VHA (HR, 1.26 [95 percent CI 1.23–1.29]).

Conclusions. Our findings indicate that the VHA has better patient outcomes than the private managed care plans in Medicare. The VHA's performance offers encouragement that the public sector can both finance and provide exemplary health care.

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