If healthcare costs are on the rise, it's not the fault of managed-care plans, said a study commissioned by the largest national managed-care trade group.
The study, commissioned by the American Association of Health Plans and prepared by the Lewin Group, said savings achieved by managed care will grow through the year 2000.
In 1996, managed care saved families between $408 and $549, including savings in premiums, out-of-pocket healthcare costs and increased wages, the study said.
Lewin said wages increased as employers passed along their healthcare savings to employees.
The total savings for all payers in 1996-including employers and the federal government-ranged from $23.8 billion to $37.4 billion, based on low- and high-range savings assumptions, the study said.
Lewin's findings are based on estimates of what healthcare spending would have been if individuals had been covered by traditional indemnity insurance plans vs. managed-care coverage.
The percentage of employees enrolled in managed-care plans is expected to grow to 85% by the year 2000 from 75% in 1996. In that period, the total savings for those enrollees are estimated to reach between $125 billion and $202 billion, the study said.
Savings are greatest in states with the largest percentage of individuals enrolled in managed-care plans.
For example, in 1996 families in California saved $770 on average, while there were no savings in states with little or no managed-care enrollment, such as Alaska, South Dakota and Wyoming, the study showed.
Managed care achieves savings by emphasizing prevention, early detection and treatment of disease, and appropriate use of healthcare services, according to the study. Competition with other health plans and insurers also contributes to lower costs, it said.
More than 140 million Americans now belong to a managed-care plan.
A second AAHP-Lewin Group study, scheduled to appear later this month, will examine how managed care allows employers to maintain healthcare coverage for their workers.