Because states play such a prominent role in the U.S. health care system, they have long grappled with how to best control health care costs while maintaining high quality of care. There are many policy tools available to address efficiency and quality concerns — from pure state regulation to market-oriented competition designs. Given public discourse and official party platforms, one would assume that states controlled by Democrats would be more likely to adopt regulatory reforms. This study examines whether party control, as well as other economic and political factors, is associated with adopting wage pass-through (WPT) policies, which direct a portion of Medicaid reimbursement or its increase toward nursing home staff in an effort to reduce staff turnover, thereby increasing efficiency and the quality of care provided. Contrary to expectations, results indicate that states with Republican governors were against WPT adoption only when for-profit industry pressure increased; otherwise, they were more likely to favor adoption than their Democratic counterparts. This suggests a more complex relationship between partisanship and state-level policy adoption than is typically assumed. Results also indicate that state officials reacted predictably to prevailing political and economic conditions affecting state fiscal-year decisions but required sufficient governing capacity to successfully integrate WPTs into existing reimbursement system arrangements. This suggests that WPTs represent a hybrid between comprehensive and incremental policy change.

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