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Psychiatr Serv. 2001 Nov;52(11):1502-9.

Risk transfer and accountability in managed care organizations' carve-out contracts.

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  • 1Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.



This study examined characteristics of contracts between managed care organizations (MCOs) and managed behavioral health organizations (MBHOs) in terms of delegation of functions, financial arrangements between the MCO and the MBHO, and the use of performance standards.


Nationally representative administrative and clinical information about the three largest types of commercial products offered by 434 MCOs in 60 market areas was gathered by telephone survey. These products comprised services provided by health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations, and point-of-service plans. Chi square tests were performed between pairings of all three types of products to ascertain differences in the degree to which claims processing, maintenance of provider networks, utilization management, case management, and quality improvement were delegated to MBHOs through specialty contracts among the various types of products. Contractual specifications about capitation arrangements, risk sharing, the use of performance standards, and final utilization review decisions were also compared.


For all types of products, almost all the major functions were contracted by the MCO to the MBHO. Although most contracts assigned some risk for the costs of services to the MBHO, the degree of this risk varied by product type. Except in the case of preferred-provider organizations, a large number of performance standards were identified in MCOs' contracts with MBHOs, although financial incentives were rarely tied to such standards.


MCOs that contract with MBHOs place major responsibility, both financial and administrative, on the vendors.

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