Comparison of Low-Value Care Among Commercial and Medicaid Enrollees

Jacqueline E. Ellison, Soryan Kumar, Jon A. Steingrimsson, Deepak Adhikari, Christina J. Charlesworth, K. John McConnell, Amal N. Trivedi, Thomas A. Trikalinos, Shaun P. Forbes, Orestis A. Panagiotou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Low-value healthcare is costly and inefficient and may adversely affect patient outcomes. Despite increases in low-value service use, little is known about how the receipt of low-value care differs across payers. Objective: To evaluate differences in the use of low-value care between patients with commercial versus Medicaid coverage. Design: Retrospective observational analysis of the 2017 Rhode Island All-payer Claims Database, estimating the probability of receiving each of 14 low-value services between commercial and Medicaid enrollees, adjusting for patient sociodemographic and clinical characteristics. Ensemble machine learning minimized the possibility of model misspecification. Participants: Medicaid and commercial enrollees aged 18–64 with continuous coverage and an encounter at which they were at risk of receiving a low-value service. Intervention: Enrollment in Medicaid or Commercial insurance. Main Measures: Use of one of 14 validated measures of low-value care. Key Results: Among 110,609 patients, Medicaid enrollees were younger, had more comorbidities, and were more likely to be female than commercial enrollees. Medicaid enrollees had higher rates of use for 7 low-value care measures, and those with commercial coverage had higher rates for 5 measures. Across all measures of low-value care, commercial enrollees received more (risk difference [RD] 6.8 percentage points; CI: 6.6 to 7.0) low-value services than their counterparts with Medicaid. Commercial enrollees were also more likely to receive low-value services typically performed in the emergency room (RD 11.4 percentage points; CI: 10.7 to 12.2) and services that were less expensive (RD 15.3 percentage points; CI 14.6 to 16.0). Conclusion: Differences in the provision of low-value care varied across measures, though average use was slightly higher among commercial than Medicaid enrollees. This difference was more pronounced for less expensive services indicating that financial incentives may not be the sole driver of low-value care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-960
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • commercial insurance
  • low-value care
  • machine learning
  • medicaid
  • physician reimbursement
  • targeted maximum likelihood estimation (TMLE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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