Because of rising costs in the Medicare program, the elderly have been encouraged to enroll in health maintenance organizations (HMOs). To evaluate the quality of care in these HMOs, detailed criteria on the treatment of elderly diabetics were established by an expert panel.
Approximately 20 months of care for elderly diabetics was reviewed by medical record abstractions with a historical cohort design.
The care of elderly diabetics in eight HMOs was compared with the care received in fee-for-service (FFS) settings located in similar geographic areas.
Elderly diabetics enrolled in HMOs (n = 158) were compared with similar diabetics (n = 134) in FFS settings.
Diabetic HMO enrollees were more likely to have funduscopic examinations (48% in HMOs vs 30% FFS) and urinalyses (89% in HMOs vs 74% FFS) performed. Enrollees with poor diabetic control were also more likely than FFS diabetics to be referred to an ophthalmologist (45% in HMOs vs 11% FFS). However, influenza vaccinations were administered to diabetics more often in FFS settings than to diabetic enrollees (19% in HMOs vs 62% FFS). One fifth of diabetics in both groups were treated with insulin and two thirds were treated with oral hypoglycemic agents, though HMO enrollees were more likely to have medication changes.
We conclude that most aspects of the quality of diabetic care were similar in HMO and FFS settings and were unaffected by this effort at cost containment.(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:2244-2248)