Main article: Managed care
The term managed care is used to describe a variety of techniques intended to reduce the cost of health benefits and improve the quality of care. It is also used to describe organizations that use these techniques ("managed care organization"). Many of these techniques were pioneered by HMOs, but they are now used in a wide variety of private health insurance programs. Through the 1990s, managed care grew from about 25% US employees with employer-sponsored coverage to the vast majority.
Rise of managed care in the US
Year Conventional plans HMOs
1998 14% 27% 35% 24% ~
1999 10% 28% 39% 24% ~
2000 8% 29% 42% 21% ~
2001 7% 24% 46% 23% ~
2002 4% 27% 52% 18% ~
2003 5% 24% 54% 17% ~
2004 5% 25% 55% 15% ~
2005 3% 21% 61% 15% ~
2006 3% 20% 60% 13% 4%
2007 3% 21% 57% 15% 5%
2008 2% 20% 58% 12% 8%
Network-based managed care
Many managed care programs are based on a panel or network of contracted health care providers. Such programs typically include:
• A set of selected providers that furnish a comprehensive array of health care services to enrollees;
• Explicit standards for selecting providers;
• Formal utilization review and quality improvement programs;
• An emphasis on preventive care; and
• Financial incentives to encourage enrollees to use care efficiently.
Provider networks can be used to reduce costs by negotiating favorable fees from providers, selecting cost effective providers, and creating financial incentives for providers to practice more efficiently. A survey issued in 2009 by America's Health Insurance Plans found that patients going to out-of-network providers are sometimes charged extremely high fees.
Network-based plans may be either closed or open. With a closed network, enrollees' expenses are generally only covered when they go to network providers. Only limited services are covered outside the network—typically only emergency and out-of-area care. Most traditional HMOs were closed network plans. Open network plans provide some coverage when an enrollee uses non-network provider, generally at a lower benefit level to encourage the use of network providers. Most preferred provider organization plans are open-network (those that are not are often described as exclusive provider organizations, or EPOs), as are point of service (POS) plans.
The terms "open panel" and "closed panel" are sometimes used to describe which health care providers in a community have the opportunity to participate in a plan. In a "closed panel" HMO, the network providers are either HMO employees (staff model) or members of large group practices with which the HMO has a contract. In an "open panel" plan the HMO or PPO contracts with independent practitioners, opening participation in the network to any provider in the community that meets the plan's credential requirements and is willing to accept the terms of the plan's contract.