Science & Tech

Physicians who are experts on managed care avoid enrolling in HMOs

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Don’t tend to choose managed care when selecting personal health insurance plans

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and RAND surveyed 279 professors at 17 universities across the country who were prominent experts in managed care to find out their preferences when selecting health plans for themselves and their families. The researchers also surveyed “controls,” consisting of other professors at the same institutions who did not study health care but had the same health plan choices available to them. Comparisons of these two groups showed that the experts who were physicians were almost half as likely to choose an HMO plan. Instead, the physician experts were attracted to fee-for-service and point-of-service options. “It is not clear why physician experts tend to steer away from HMOs,” said David Studdert, lead author, and assistant professor of health policy and law in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. “These doctors may have stronger distaste for the constraints that HMOs impose. Through their work, they may have preferences for specific providers and facilities that are not part of the HMO network on offer. However, one cannot rule out the possibility that the experts’ choices stem from special insights into managed care that non-experts don’t have.”