If you have a health plan, chances are you have a managed care plan. The term “managed care” is used to describe a type of health care focused on helping to reduce costs, while keeping quality of care high.
The most common health plans available today often include features of managed care. These include provider networks, provider oversight, prescription drug tiers, and more. These are designed to manage costs for everyone without sacrificing quality care.
What is an example of a managed care plan?
A good example of a managed care plan is an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization). HMOs closely manage your care. Your cost is lowest with an HMO. You are limited to seeing providers in a small local network, which also helps keep costs low. You are also required to have a Primary Care Provider (PCP) who coordinates all your care. There are a few other common health plans that fall into this category, as well.
What is a managed care organization?
A managed care organization or MCO is a health care company or a health plan that is focused on managed care as a model to limit costs, while keeping quality of care high.
What are the features of managed care plans?
The following are the most common characteristics included in many popular health insurance plans. They are examples of managed care:
- Provider networks: Health insurance companies contract with groups of providers to offer plan members reduced rates on care and services. These networks can include doctors, specialists, hospitals, labs, and other health care facilities.
Some health plans require you to use the plan’s provider network to be covered for your care. HMOs, for example, require you to see network providers to be covered by the plan. In return, the cost you pay is typically much less.
- Preventive care incentives: Managed care plans typically focus on making preventive care a priority. Most preventive services, such as annual check-ups, routine screenings, and certain vaccines, are covered at 100% by your health plan. Why? Regular check-ups help doctors identify health problems early, before they become major and costly. No-cost preventive care is a big incentive for plan members to try and maintain good health.
- Primary Care Providers (PCP): Your health plan may require you to choose a PCP if you don’t already have one. You may be required to see your PCP first before going to any other doctor or specialist. As part of a managed care system, this makes your PCP key in helping coordinate all your health care. If you need more specialized care or treatment, your PCP can refer you to the right specialists and facilities, often in the same network. This, too, helps to manage your care.
- Prior authorization: Most managed care plans require you to get approval before you have certain types of procedures or treatments done, or are prescribed certain types of specialty medications. This is called prior authorization, precertification, or preapproval, depending on your insurer. Part of managed care’s goal is to help ensure you are not receiving treatment or medications you may not need. It’s also a way for the insurer to manage costs for expensive tests, surgeries, or specialized medications.
Quite often, as part of a prior authorization, your insurer will ask for additional information from your provider before deciding to approve it or not. This helps them understand the medical need for a more costly treatment, a certain surgical procedure, or a specialty medication, for example.
- Prescription drug tiers: If you have prescription coverage, your health plan may provide more coverage for generic medications than brand names. This is another common feature of managed care plans. Generics typically have the same formula and the same active ingredients, but they cost much less. This furthers the goals of managed care, which is to help keep costs lower, while still ensuring you receive quality care and equally effective medications.