The Impact of HMO Competition on Private Health Insurance Premiums, 1985—1992

Vol. 32, No. 3
Fall 1995
Wickizer, T.M., and Feldstein, P.J.

A critical unresolved health policy question is whether competition stimulated by managed care organizations can slow the rate of growth in health care expenditures. The researchers analyzed the competitive effects of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) on the growth in fee-for-service indemnity insurance premiums over the period 1985—1992 using premium data on 95 groups that had policies with a single, large, private insurance carrier. The researchers used multiple regressions to estimate the effect of HMO market penetration on insurance premium growth rates. HMO penetration had a statistically significant (p < .015) negative effect on the rate of growth in indemnity insurance premiums. For an average group located in a market whose HMO penetration rate increased by 25% (e.g., from 10% to 12.5%), the real rate of growth in premiums would be approximately 5.9% instead of 7.0%. Their findings indicate that competitive strategies, relying on managed care, have significant potential to reduce health insurance premium growth rates, thereby resulting in substantial cost savings over time.

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