HMO Market Penetration and Costs of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Higher Market Penetration by Managed Care Leads to Lower Employer Health Plan Costs

Using two employer surveys, these authors evaluate the role of increased health maintenance organization (HMO) market share in containing costs of employer-sponsored coverage. Total costs for employer health plans are about 10 percent lower in markets in which HMOs' market share is above 45 percent than they are in markets with HMO enrollments of below 25 percent. This is the result of lower premiums for HMOs than for non-HMO plans, as well as the competitive effect of HMOs that leads to lower non-HMO premiums for employers that continue to offer these benefits. Slower growth in premiums in areas with high HMO enrollments suggests that expanded HMO market share may also lower the long-run growth in costs.