What is an HMO?

What is an HMO?

Health Maintenance Organization - HMO's are both insurers and health care providers. They accept responsibility for a specific set of health care benefits offered to customers and provide those benefits through a network of physicians and hospitals.


Many people today are using HMO's. According to a New York Times article (Freudenheim, M. "Health Care in the Era of Capitalism," New York Times, April 2, 1996), an estimated 58 million Americans are enrolled in HMO's, and another 81 million are enrolled in other types of managed care. A July 8, 1996 Reuter's article says that more than 4 million Medicare beneficiaries and 12 million Medicaid recipients are in HMO's and other managed-care plans.

What kinds of HMO's are there? Staff model HMO's own and operate physician-staffed health centers that offer a broad range of medical care including laboratory, x-ray, vision, and pharmacy services.


Group practice HMO's contract with medical groups to provide health services to HMO members.

group model HMO

A health maintenance organization (HMO) that contracts with a group of physicians with multiple specialties who are employees of the group practice. Also known as a group practice model HMO.

health maintenance organization (HMO)

A healthcare system that assumes or shares both the financial risks and the delivery risks associated with providing comprehensive medical services to a voluntarily enrolled population in a particular geographic area, usually in return for a fixed, prepaid fee.

health promotion programs

Programs designed to educate and motivate members to prevent illness and injury and to promote good health through lifestyle choices, such as smoking cessation and dietary changes. Also known as preventive care programs or wellness programs.

Indemnity and Traditional Insurance

Traditional insurance, also known as Indemnity or Fee-for-Service, allows members to select any healthcare provider for services. Traditional insurance offers the most freedom of choice and control over healthcare, but benefits are maximized when using a participating Blue Cross Blue Shield company.

managed care

The integration of financing and delivery of healthcare within a system that seeks to manage the accessibility, cost and quality of that care.

managed dental care

Any dental plan offered by an organization that provides a benefit plan that differs from a traditional fee-for-service plan.

medical advisory committee

The MCO (managed care organization) committee that evaluates proposed policies and action plans related to clinical practice management, including changes in provider contracts, compensation and changes in authorization procedures. Medical advisory committees also review data regarding new medical technology and examine proposed medical policies.

network model HMO

A health maintenance organization (HMO) that contracts with multiple group practices of physicians or specialty groups



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