HMOs Surpass Traditional Insurance in Eliminating Some Disparities

In this 2000 project, Kevin Fiscella, MD, MPH, and researchers at the University of Rochester, examined the effect of managed care penetration on socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in health care.

They hypothesized that managed care penetration may help alleviate disparities in health care access and quality between different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic populations.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization (HCFO) national program.

Key Findings

  • HMO enrollees used health care at similar rates regardless of education. Disparities in health care use related to income and to race/ethnicity were similar between HMO enrollees and individuals with indemnity insurance.

  • HMO enrollees were more likely than individuals with indemnity insurance to have received care from a mental health professional.

  • High-income HMO enrollees were significantly more likely to have a usual source of medical care than were high-income individuals with indemnity insurance.

  • According to the principal investigator, "HMOs are doing better than non-HMOs in eliminating disparities, at least as far as they relate to educational factors, but we believe HMOs have untapped potential to address racial and ethnic disparities as well."