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"Know" Surprises with Health Insurance Plans-HMO

Posted Nov 21 2008 9:07pm
Today, the discussion is related to HMOs. Today's HMO has evolved over the years. Referring back to my previous post, you will recall that there was a battle between providers and the insurance companies which greatly contributed to cost increases (in my opinion). The payment for services was largely uncontrolled. In other words, as the cost of care increased so did the payment. It didn't take too many years until the payers began an attempt to control how care was delivered in order to control costs. The HMO and Managed Care was born.

The HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) in it's most strict time, placed heavy restrictions on the setting for care (hospital, MD office, home) as well as the cost. The concept was that an exclusive network of care providers was created by payers. The providers would accept deep discounts on their reimbursement in exchange for guaranteed steering of patients to them. The impact on you is that you MUST use providers within that network or you pay a much higher price. Additionally, each person was to have assisgned a "Primary Care Physician" who was considered the gatekeeper for directing what care you did receive, i.e. referral to specialists, etc. The philosophy is that there would be one person/physician that would be in a position to keep the pieces of your care coordinated. Did it work?? For the sake of discussion, no it did not. The ultimate result was that there was too many services, too few primary (family) doctors and too many specialists.

Ultimately, the Managed Care concept met too much resistance to actually contain costs. The care was still passed around to specialists and there was not much actual coordination of care...just control of care. Over time, care became more fragmented as new technologies and treatments continued to attract people to multiple specialists and increased the costs. It has become "Managed Cost resulting in Mangled Care".

The HMO still exists today, but really the only thing that resembles the original HMO is the network of contracted providers. You must use those providers or pay a higher cost. A primary physician is usually no longer required...why would it didn't work anyway. In fact, the HMO doesn't really look all that different from other popular types of coverage plans such a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). The KEY for you is to read your policy carefully...some items will be covered and some will not and circumstances may dictate whether care is approved. Let's be clear...the payors are not dictating whether you can receive certain care but whether they will pay for the care. That's another set of posts. In the meantime, stay Healthy and Happy.
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