The real Golden Rule is that he who owns the gold rules.
Never has that been more crystal clear than during last week's kickoff of a million-dollar big business campaign to fight proposals in Congress that would tighten the regulatory screws on managed care.
While it is convenient for critics to portray managed-care executives as cruel and heartless, the fact is they are serving the needs of their customers. Perhaps more of the heat should be directed at employers and government programs that turn to managed care to contain healthcare costs.
Recent evidence reinforces the notion that managed care is working well for those who pay the bills. To wit:
The cost of medical insurance premiums for workers continues to be stable. Health benefit costs rose just 0.2% last year, according to a William M. Mercer/Foster Higgins survey of 4,000 employers.
Healthcare spending slowed to a decades-low pace in 1996 (the latest year for which data are available). Spending rose only 4.4%, the smallest increase in 37 years. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the growth rate was an all-time low of 1.9%.
About 15% of Medicare beneficiaries and 24% of Medicaid recipients are enrolled in HMOs. Both numbers are expected to soar as the government looks to managed care to trim health outlays.
Employers are willing to spend big bucks to beat back managed-care regulation. They will use the fear of higher costs and the threat that more companies will drop health insurance benefits if the rules become too onerous.
Rather than attacking managed care, providers should convince employers that limited consumer protection is prudent. Moreover, they must stand united in support of workplace-based insurance. When contracting for services and supplies, the American Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State give preference to companies that provide health insurance to full-time employees. That's an idea all organizations should borrow.