This article explores one of the most pressing issues in the health care debate: whether MCOS should be required to disclose directly to their parents the financial incentives they use to limit care. I argue that because the health care market has moved toward cost-containment and managed care, MCOs should be required to disclose their financial incentives to patients. I apply the theory of “learned helplessness” to help understand why MCOs should be required to disclose financial incentives. Managed care has changed how patients consciously or subconsciously understand their relationship with their MCO and individual physician. Although patients have always been dependent and reliant on their physicians in accordance with learned helplessness theory, I argue that managed care has brought with it an influx of financial pressures that have affected not only the physician-patient relationship, but the overall “quality” of care as well. The interests of the physician and patient are not necessarily aligned anymore, as physicians have more external pressures than ever before to contain costs. Therefore, disclosure of the financial incentives by the MCO will help break the cycle of learned helplessness and empower patients with greater knowledge, choice, and communication with their physicians while simultaneously allowing patients to become educated about the realities of the health care market. I argue understanding the cognitive factors underlying the patient’s perspective helps justify why MCO disclosure will provide all players in the health care market - patients, physicians, and MCOs - with increased stability in the future.


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