HMOs: Bee Looks At The Myths and Realities
Sunday's Sacramento Bee took a look at 10 common myths about HMOs:
- "HMOs are making huge profits:" In fact, the Bee reports, most HMOs are losing money.
- "HMOs squeezed the profits out of the hospital industry:" "In truth, the nation's hospitals have survived a turbulent decade in health care with steady and rising profit margins," the Bee reports.
- "Doctors are making less money:" While Dr. Jack Lewin of the California Medical Association says doctors in areas of high managed care penetration are making less money, the Bee asserts that "there must be other doctors doing quite well, thank you, even in this age of managed care."
- "HMOs tamed medical inflation:" The Bee reports that "medical inflation is still alive."
- "Consumer pocketbooks are bearing a larger burden of health care costs:" The Bee notes that today consumers pay $1 for every $6 of health care services they receive, while ten years ago they paid $1 out of $4 in out-of-pocket costs.
- "HMOs have created a doctor's shortage:" The Bee notes that the U.S. has 60% more doctors than it did in 1975.
- "Doctors are busier than ever:" The Bee reports that the "average American doctor saw more office patients in 1989 than in 1996," and that the "[t]otal number of office and hospital visits have declined." But, the CMA's Lewin notes that California doctors are seeing an average of 20% more patients than before.
- "In the good old days, medical insurance offered better, broader coverage:" Before managed care, people had to pay more out-of-pocket preventive care costs under fee-for- service, because "[w]hat many tend to forget ... is that traditional health insurance was about protecting people from unpredictable events," says health care researcher Larry Levitt, director of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Changing Health Care Marketplace Project.
- "Consumers are basing health care decisions on quality of care:" Most people aren't reading HMO report cards, the Bee notes.
- "You'll believe what you've just read:" "You should," the Bee says, noting that "[f]riends and family are the primary source of information on the health care system."