EBRI Issue Brief

The Effectiveness of Health Care Cost Management Strategies: A Review of the Evidence

Oct 1, 1994 23  pages


  • This Issue Brief discusses the evolution of the health care delivery and financing systems and its effects on health care cost management and describes the changes in the health care delivery system as they pertain to managed care. It presents empirical evidence on the effectiveness of managed care and concludes with an analysis of the potential of future health care reform to influence the evolution of the health care delivery system and affect health care costs.
  • Between 1987 and 1993, total enrollment in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) increased from 28.6 million to 39.8 million, representing an additional 11.2 million individuals, or 4 percent of the U.S. population. At the same time, new forms of managed care organizations emerged. Enrollment in preferred provider organizations increased from 12.2 million individuals in 1987 to 58 million in 1992, and enrollment in point-of-service plans increased from virtually none in 1987 to 2.3 million individuals in 1992. In addition, the percentage of traditional fee-for-service plans with some form of utilization review increased to 95 percent in 1990 from 41 percent in 1987.
  • Measuring the effects of the changing delivery system on the costs and quality of health care services has been a difficult task, resulting in considerable disagreement as to whether or not costs have been affected. In a recent report, the Congressional Budget Office recognizes two new major findings. First, managed care can provide cost-effective health care at a level of quality comparable with the care typically provided by a fee-for-service plan. Second, independent practice associations can be as effective as group- or staff-model HMOs under certain conditions.
  • In the future, we are likely to see a continued movement of Americans into managed care arrangements, an increase in the number of physicians forming networks, a reduction in the number of insurers, an increase in the number of employers joining coalitions to purchase health care services for their employees, and a health care system that is generally more concentrated and vertically integrated.