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'Managed Care' Keeps Growing; Hospitals Adapt

AS signaled by last week's $8.8 billion buyout of US Healthcare Inc. by Aetna Life and Casualty, the health-care industry is still marching to the beat of "managed care."

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Insurance companies such as Aetna continue to see health-care management as a business with lots of room for growth. The impetus: soaring health-care inflation over the past decade that has left many companies and families struggling to keep up.

In managed care, insurers win lower costs from hospitals and doctors for large pools of customers, while placing some controls on patients' access to care.

Efforts to date may be working: Health-care costs were rising at a relatively tame 2 percent annual rate as of last November, down sharply from about 7 percent two years ago, according to a "health cost index" report by Milliman & Robertson, Radnor, Pa.

Mergers and rising stock prices for managed-care firms aren't the only signs of the trend.

Anxious to boost revenues, hospitals expanded the number of managed-care contracts 16 percent in 1995 over 1994. More than 80 percent of hospitals now provide managed care, according to a survey by the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in New York. Many hospitals are downsizing, cutting pay, or boosting advertising.

Commuter down time costs the economy

By one estimate, the net result of traffic delays is a big loss to America's economy.

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If half the 108 million Americans who drive a car to work arrive late by 10 minutes, the cost per day in lost output is $104 million, or $26 billion for a year, reckons Long Island transportation expert Daniel Lehner.

At least big-city commuters pay less for gas, however. The American Petroleum Institute says New York motorists have the lowest annual fuel tab, $354, while range-roving Wyoming residents pay the most: $734.

Junk mail pile-up

FEEL swamped with junk mail arriving to your home? It's a statistical fact - depending, of course, on your definition of "junk."

Business-to-household mail makes up 55 percent of all mail, while personal mail and household-to-business mail together account for just 10 percent, according to the United States Postal Service. The other 35 percent is business-to-business.

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