Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 546-553

First online:

Receipt of High Risk Medications among Elderly Enrollees in Medicare Advantage Plans

  • Danya M. QatoAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Alpert Medical School of Brown University
  • , Amal N. TrivediAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityResearch Enhancement Award Program, Providence VA Medical Center Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



Since 2005, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has required all Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to report prescribing rates of high risk medications (HRM).


To determine predictors of receipt of HRMs, as defined by the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s “Drugs to Avoid in the Elderly” quality indicator, in a national sample of MA enrollees.


Retrospective analysis of Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) data for 6,204,824 enrollees, aged 65 years or older, enrolled in 415 MA plans in 2009. To identify predictors of HRM use, we fit generalized linear models and modeled outcomes on the risk-difference scale.


Receipt or non-receipt of one or two HRMs.


Approximately 21 % of MA enrollees received at least one HRM and 4.8 % received at least two. In fully adjusted models, females had a 10.6 (95 % CI: 10.0–11.2) higher percentage point rate of receipt than males, and residence in any of the Southern United States divisions was associated with a greater than 10 percentage point higher rate, as compared with the reference New England division. Higher rates were also observed among enrollees with low personal income (6.5 percentage points, 95 % CI: 5.5–7.5), relative to those without low income and those residing in areas in the lowest quintile of socioeconomic status (2.7 points, 95 % CI: 1.9–3.4) relative to persons residing in the highest quintile. Enrollees ≥ 85 years old, black enrollees, and other minority groups were less likely to receive these medications. Over 38 % of MA enrollees residing in the hospital referral region of Albany, Georgia received at least one HRM, a rate four times higher than the referral region with the lowest rate (Mason City, Iowa).


Use of HRMs among MA enrollees varies widely by geographic region. Persons living in the Southern region of the U.S., whites, women, and persons of low personal income and socioeconomic status are more likely to receive HRMs.


high risk medications geriatric prescribing potentially inappropriate medication quality prescribing disparities