Trust in managed care organizations

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2000 Sep;10(3):189-212. doi: 10.1353/ken.2000.0018.


Two basic criticisms of managed care are that it erodes patient trust in physicians and subjects physicians to incentives and pressures that compromise the physician's fiduciary obligation to the patient. In this article, I first distinguish between status trust and merit trust, and then argue (1) that the value of status trust in physicians is probably over-rated and certainly underdocumented; (2) that erosion of status trust may not be detrimental if accompanied by an increase in well-founded merit trust; and (3) that under conditions of managed care the physician's commitment to traditional medical ethics cannot serve as an adequate basis for merit trust. Next, drawing on an analogy between managed care organzations and politics, I argue that (4) the most appropriate basis for merit trust in managed care is a conception of organizational legitimacy that includes procedural justice, empowerment of constructive criticism within the organization, and organizational accommodation of the noninstrumental commitment to patient well-being that is distinctive of medical professionalism. I then explore the conditions necessary for robust competition for merit trust among managed care organizations and indicate the kinds of public policies needed to facilitate such competition. Finally, I show how the account of organization-based merit trust can accommodate the special fiduciary obligation of medical professionals, without indulging in the delusion that it is the physician's fiduciary obligation always to provide all care that is expected to be of any net benefit to the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Disclosure
  • Economics
  • Ethics, Institutional*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Managed Care Programs*
  • Managed Competition
  • Moral Obligations
  • Motivation
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patients
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians
  • Politics
  • Public Policy
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Social Justice
  • Social Responsibility
  • Trust*
  • United States