Preferences, Choices, and Managed Care Markets: Determinants of Consumer Trust and Satisfaction

To what extent does the way in which managed care entities are structured in the market affect consumer trust and satisfaction? Researchers at the University of Minnesota examined this question, and tested the following two hypotheses: 1) trust in an HMO is dependent on whether an individual has a choice of health plan, what his or her preferences are when it comes to health plan choice, and his or her attitudes towards costs; and 2) disruptions in HMO market structure (e.g., mergers, market entry, or market withdrawal) are associated with lower levels of trust and satisfaction on the part of consumers. Using the Community Tracking Study Household Survey, supplemented by data on HMOs from the InterStudy Survey, the researchers’ objectives were to understand 1) the relationship between ability to choose one’s health plan (and the existence of choices) on that individual’s satisfaction with health care, trust in the health plan, and trust in provider; and 2) the effect of managed care market structures on the choice process and on satisfaction with the trust variables.