One Cap for Health Costs

Even as medical bills climb, 277 so-called health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are managing to keep their members healthy and out of the poorhouse to boot. HMOs are group-practice health plans in which a family pays a flat fee of, say, $160 per month, and in return is provided with comprehensive medical care, ranging from doctors' visits to heart surgery. The idea behind the plans is to reduce costs by making doctors and administrators accountable for healthcare expenditures.

In HMOs, compensation to doctors for their services comes directly from the administrative office instead of the patient. Some HMOs automatically withhold a portion of...

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