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Annu Rev Public Health. 1998;19:527-37.

Managed care and public health departments: who is responsible for the health of the population?

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  • 1Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine, Portland 97201, USA.


This review examines changes over the past decade in the delivery of health care in the United States, specifically the move toward managed care and capitation. Over 77 million Americans are now enrolled in health maintenance organizations, and the health care delivery system is reorganizing into large group practices and integrated health systems. Examined here are the implications of this shift on the interaction between managed care and public health agencies. How will a population-based system of health care be achieved in light of managed care organizations' responsibility only for their enrolled population, in contrast to the responsibility of the public health service for the entire population? Where does the responsibility of MCOs end and that of public health begin? Should certain public health functions be absorbed by managed care organizations? What are the prospects for partnership between these two systems?

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