Large employers reduced healthcare costs per employee by an average of 1.1% in 1994 by moving workers from indemnity plans to managed care, according to a study released last week.
But industry experts disagree about whether the dramatic cost savings from managed care is a onetime blip or the start of a long trend.
The study by Foster Higgins, a New York-based benefits consulting firm, found that the average healthcare cost per employee dipped last year to $3,741, from $3,781 in 1993.
John Welch, a principal with Foster Higgins, said he expects companies will continue to see healthcare costs moderate for several years as more employees are shifted to managed care.
James Bentley, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association, said he believes last year's lower costs were not an aberration.
"The private market has changed; purchasers are becoming more price-sensitive," Bentley said.
But not everyone agrees. Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt said he sees the savings from managed care as a short-term phenomenon. He pointed to the fact that the study found the largest decreases in high-cost areas.