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Miller KEM, Van Houtven CH, Kent EE, Gilleskie D, Holmes GM, Smith VA, Stearns SC. Short-term effects of comprehensive caregiver supports on caregiver outcomes. Health services research. 2023 Feb 1; 58(1):140-153.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate the association of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) implemented in 2011 with caregiver health and health care use. DATA SOURCES: VHA claims and electronic health records from May 2009 to May 2018. STUDY DESIGN: Using a retrospective, pre-post study design with inverse probability of treatment weights to address selection into treatment, we examine the association of PCAFC on caregivers who are veterans: (1) outpatient primary, specialty, and mental health care visits; (2) probability of uncontrolled hypertension and anxiety/depression; and (3) VHA health care costs. We compare outcomes for caregivers approved for PCAFC (treatment) to caregivers denied PCAFC (comparison). DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: Not applicable. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In the year pre-application, we observe similar probabilities of having any VHA primary care (~36%), VHA specialty care (~24%), and VHA or VHA-purchased mental health care (~22%) for treatment and comparison caregivers. In the year post-application, treated caregivers had a 5.89 percentage point larger probability of any outpatient VHA primary care (p = 0.002) and 4.34 percentage points larger probability of any outpatient mental health care use (p = 0.014). Post-application, probabilities of having uncontrolled hypertension or diagnosed anxiety/depression were higher for both treated and comparison groups. In the second year post-application, treated caregivers had a 1.88 percentage point larger probability of uncontrolled hypertension (p = 0.019) and 4.68 percentage points larger probability of diagnosed anxiety/depression (predicted probabilities: treated = 0.30; comparison = 0.25; p = 0.005). We find no evidence of differences in VHA total costs by PCAFC status. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings that PCAFC enrollment is associated with increased health care diagnosis and service use may reflect improved access for previously unmet needs in the population of veteran caregivers for veterans in PCAFC. The costs and value of these increases can be weighed against other effects of the program to inform national policies supporting caregivers.