|Home | About | Journals | Submit | Contact Us | Français|
STUDY AIMS: (1) To develop indexes measuring the degree of managedness and the covered benefits of health insurance plans, (2) to describe the variation in these indexes among plans in one health insurance market, (3) to assess the validity of the health plan indexes, and (4) to examine the association between patient characteristics and the health plan indexes. Measures of the "managedness" and covered benefits of health plans are requisite for studying the effects of managed care on clinical practice and health system performance, and they may improve people's understanding of our complex health care system. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING: As part of our larger Physician Referral Study, we collected health insurance information for 189 insurance product lines and 755 products in the Seattle, Washington metropolitan area, which we linked with the study's data for 2,277 patients recruited in local primary care offices. STUDY DESIGN: Managed care and benefit variables were constructed through content analysis of health plan information. Principal component analysis of the variables produced a managedness index, an in-network benefits index, and an out-of-network benefits index. Bivariable analyses examined associations between patient characteristics and the three indexes. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: From the managed care variables, we constructed three provider-oriented indexes for the financial, utilization management, and network domains of health plans. From these, we constructed a single managedness index, which correlated as expected with the individual measures, with the domain indexes, with plan type (FFS, PPO, POS, HMO), with independent assessments of local experts, and with patients' attitudes about their health insurance. For benefits, we constructed an in-network benefits index and an out-of-network benefits index, which were correlated with the managedness index. The personal characteristics of study patients were associated with the managed care and benefit indexes. Study patients in more managed plans reported somewhat better health than patients in less managed plans. CONCLUSIONS: Indexes of the managedness and benefits of health plans can be constructed from publicly available information. The managedness and benefit indexes are associated with the personal characteristics and health status of study patients. Potential uses of the managed care and benefits indexes are discussed.