Preferred provider organization enrollment rose at a slower rate in 2002 than in previous years, suggesting a tightening of employer cost controls that may have continued into this year, according to a report released today from InterStudy Publications.
PPOs gained an estimated 4.7 million more lives last year, a 2.6% growth, the St. Paul, Minn.-based company says.
The trend for PPOs matches a slowing last year of the longstanding decline in enrollment for HMOs, which have tighter cost controls, as reported by InterStudy last week.
"I'm not ready to say that we've hit a plateau with PPO growth," says Rebecca Waller, a researcher at InterStudy. "But when the economy is like it is now, more employers try and focus on HMOs because they save them money."
Meanwhile, new Medicare PPO demonstration projects, which will begin in January, had signed up 67,561 enrollees in 23 plans in 18 states as of June 30, InterStudy reports, citing CMS figures.
InterStudy says 46,000 of those enrollees came from just one plan, offered by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
"Horizon did a lot of marketing and ads," Waller says. "They really came out guns a-blazing to try to get enrollment."
InterStudy also is beginning to examine consumer-driven health plans using an incomplete measure that polls just a few PPOs, Waller says.
She says one of the big players in consumer-driven healthcare is First Health Network, based in Downers Grove, Ill., which has 38,000 such enrollees.