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Am J Prev Med. 1998 Apr;14(3):161-7.

Health promotion and managed care: surveys of California's health plans and population.

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University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, Health Insurance Policy Program, 94720-7360, USA.



The purpose was to examine whether health-promotion programs offered by California health plans are a serious attempt to improve health status or a marketing device used in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The research examined differences in the coverage, availability, utilization, and evaluation of health-promotion programs in California health plans.


A mail survey was done of the 35 HMOs (86% response) and 18 health insurance carriers (83% response) licensed to sell comprehensive health insurance in California in 1996 (some plans sell both HMO and PPO/indemnity products). The final sample included 30 commercial HMOs and 20 PPO and indemnity plans. The 1996 California Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) of 4,000 adults was used to estimate population participation rates in health-promotion programs.


California's HMOs in 1996 offered more comprehensive preventive benefits and health-promotion programs compared to PPO and indemnity plans. HMOs relied on a more comprehensive set of health-education methods to communicate health information to members and were more likely to open their programs to the public. HMOs are also more likely to have developed relationships with community-based and public health providers. Participation in health-promotion programs is low (2%-3%), regardless of plan type, and most health plans limit evaluations to assessment of member satisfaction and utilization. Only 35%-45% of HMOs, and no PPO/indemnity plans, assess the impact of health-promotion programs on health risks and behaviors, health status, or health care costs.


For the majority of California's PPO and indemnity plans, health promotion is not an integral part of their business. For the majority of HMOs, health-promotion programs are offered primarily as a marketing vehicle. However, a substantial minority of HMOs offer health-promotion programs to achieve other organizational goals of health improvement and cost control.

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