Health Care Management Science

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 232–245 | Cite as

Cost inefficiency under financial strain: a stochastic frontier analysis of hospitals in Washington State through the Great Recession



The importance of increasing cost efficiency for community hospitals in the United States has been underscored by the Great Recession and the ever-changing health care reimbursement environment. Previous studies have shown mixed evidence with regards to the relationship between linking hospitals’ reimbursement to quality of care and cost efficiency. Moreover, current evidence suggests that not only inherently financially disadvantaged hospitals (e.g., safety-net providers), but also more financially stable providers, experienced declines to their financial viability throughout the recession. However, little is known about how hospital cost efficiency fared throughout the Great Recession. This study contributes to the literature by using stochastic frontier analysis to analyze cost inefficiency of Washington State hospitals between 2005 and 2012, with controls for patient burden of illness, hospital process of care quality, and hospital outcome quality. The quality measures included in this study function as central measures for the determination of recently implemented pay-for-performance programs. The average estimated level of hospital cost inefficiency before the Great Recession (10.4 %) was lower than it was during the Great Recession (13.5 %) and in its aftermath (14.1 %). Further, the estimated coefficients for summary process of care quality indexes for three health conditions (acute myocardial infarction, pneumonia, and heart failure) suggest that higher quality scores are associated with increased cost inefficiency.


Great recession Cost efficiency Hospitals Stochastic frontier analysis Quality of care 

JEL classification

I11 L89 D12 

Msc classification

62–07 62F03 62F10 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsEastern Washington UniversityCheneyUSA

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