Health · June 23, 2022

dr Paul M. Ellwood Jr., architect of HMO, dead at 95

In the 1960s, while still working for the American Rehabilitation Foundation, Dr. Ellwood set up a health policy research group called Interstudy, which was looking for ways to apply business management techniques to improve health care and reduce costs. It formed an HMO that years later became United Health Group, now one of the largest healthcare companies in the country.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Ellwood, after giving up his medical career, moved to Wyoming, got into the real estate industry and founded the Jackson Hole Group — a cohort of physicians, economists, academics, and policymakers who met regularly at his home for decades to talk about new healthcare strategies.

The group produced many reports, but the most notable was used by Bill Clinton in his 1992 presidential campaign, when he promised to reform a healthcare system with galloping costs and millions uninsured. After Mr. Clinton’s election, Dr. Ellwood, economist Alain C. Enthoven and others created the blueprint for the government’s “controlled competition” health care reform proposal.

It would have organized corporations and individuals into co-ops to buy insurance from partnerships of doctors, hospitals and insurers competing for the business, and it would have covered nearly all uninsured Americans. The plan promoted by Hillary Clinton fell through in 1994, but by then Drs. Ellwood and his colleagues distanced themselves from the plan because there was conflict over the level of regulation it would have imposed.

dr Ellwood, who lived in Bellingham just north of Seattle, retired as president of the Jackson Hole Group in 2002. He and his first wife, Elizabeth Ann (Schwenk) Ellwood, had three children, Deborah, Cynthia and David. They divorced in 1990 and Elizabeth Ann later died. In 2000 he married Barbara Winch. In addition to his wife, Dr. Ellwood his three children and five grandchildren.

In later years, he championed what he called “Outcomes Management” – a national database to show how patient care actually works. Without such action, he argued, healthcare providers and policymakers would have no way to know if care would be compromised to reduce costs and no way to evaluate proposed reforms.