PPOs Suck

The Limitations of PPOs and Their Declining Relevance for Employers: The Rise of TPAs

Victor Manes, MBA – President at M Healthcare Solutions

June 12, 2023

Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) have long been a common choice for employers seeking healthcare coverage options for their employees. However, as the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, the limitations of PPOs have become apparent, and they have outlived their purpose for employers. Third Party Administrators (TPAs) have emerged as a better solution, offering cost-saving measures, flexibility, and enhanced services. This article explores the reasons why PPOs are not the optimal solution and why they have outlived their purpose for employers.

Escalating Healthcare Costs:

One of the primary reasons PPOs have lost their effectiveness is the continuously escalating healthcare costs. PPOs operate on a fee-for-service reimbursement model, which incentivizes providers to focus on the quantity of services rendered rather than the quality of care or cost containment. This fee-for-service structure leads to unnecessary tests, procedures, and treatments, driving up healthcare costs for both employers and employees.

TPAs, on the other hand, employ various cost-saving measures to help employers manage healthcare expenses. They negotiate discounted rates with healthcare providers, implement utilization review processes, and promote value-based care initiatives. By aligning incentives towards cost-effective care, TPAs can significantly reduce healthcare costs for employers.

Customization and Flexibility:

PPOs often come with pre-determined network restrictions and limitations, which can limit employees’ choices and flexibility in healthcare provider selection. This lack of customization can be problematic for employers with diverse workforce needs and preferences.

TPAs offer more flexibility and customization options. They work closely with employers to design healthcare plans that align with their specific requirements, including the choice of providers and coverage options. TPAs provide employers with the freedom to tailor their healthcare plans to suit the needs of their employees, promoting employee satisfaction and engagement.

Care Coordination:

PPOs often fall short when it comes to care coordination among healthcare providers. In a PPO model, employees have the freedom to choose any provider within the network without requiring referrals. While this flexibility may seem advantageous, it often leads to fragmented care and a lack of communication among healthcare providers. Without effective care coordination, there is a higher risk of medical errors, duplicated services, and inefficiencies in resource utilization, all of which contribute to increased healthcare costs.

TPAs prioritize care coordination and offer comprehensive services to streamline healthcare delivery. They act as a central point of contact for employees, ensuring seamless coordination between various providers, specialists, and healthcare facilities. TPAs facilitate communication, share medical records, and promote a collaborative approach to care, resulting in better outcomes and reduced healthcare costs for employers.

Enhanced Employee Support and Engagement:

PPOs often lack personalized support and guidance for employees navigating the complex healthcare system. Employees may struggle to understand their coverage, access appropriate care, or resolve claims-related issues.

TPAs place a strong emphasis on employee support and engagement. They provide dedicated customer service teams to assist employees with their healthcare needs, answer questions, and resolve concerns. TPAs also offer tools and resources, such as online portals and mobile apps, to empower employees to make informed healthcare decisions. This personalized support and engagement contribute to employee satisfaction and improved healthcare experiences.

Shift towards Value-Based Care:

The healthcare industry is transitioning towards a value-based care model that focuses on delivering high-quality care and achieving better patient outcomes. PPOs, with their fee-for-service reimbursement model, are not well-aligned with this shift.

TPAs align with the value-based care approach, prioritizing cost-effective care and incentivizing providers based on patient outcomes rather than the volume of services rendered. TPAs promote preventive care, chronic disease management, and care coordination, leading to improved healthcare outcomes and reduced costs for employers in the long run.

Technology and Data Analytics:

TPAs leverage technology and data analytics to drive better healthcare management for employers. Through advanced data analysis, TPAs can identify patterns, trends, and opportunities for cost savings. They provide employers with detailed reports on healthcare utilization, cost breakdowns, and recommendations for improving the effectiveness of their healthcare plans. This data-driven approach allows employers to make informed decisions and optimize their healthcare spending.

In contrast, PPOs often lack robust data analytics capabilities, making it challenging for employers to gain insights into their healthcare utilization and costs. This lack of transparency hinders employers’ ability to effectively manage their healthcare budgets and make data-informed decisions.


While PPOs have been a popular choice for employers in the past, their limitations have made them less suitable for the current healthcare landscape. Escalating healthcare costs, lack of customization and flexibility, fragmented care coordination, and inadequate employee support are significant drawbacks of PPOs. In contrast, TPAs offer cost-saving measures, customization options, comprehensive care coordination, enhanced employee support, and alignment with value-based care principles. Employers seeking to effectively manage healthcare costs, promote employee satisfaction, and improve healthcare outcomes should consider TPAs as a superior alternative to PPOs. The shift towards TPAs reflects the growing need for innovative healthcare solutions that prioritize cost containment, personalized care, and data-driven decision-making.