Utilization of health resources by 37,444 Medicaid recipients enrolled in a capitated health maintenance organization was compared with that of 227,242 Medicaid recipients enrolled in a traditional fee-for-service system over a 1-year period (1983-1984) in the state of Kentucky. Primary care providers in the capitated program had financial incentives to reduce downstream costs like specialist referral, emergency room use, and hospitalizations. The average number of physician visits was similar for both groups (4.47/year in the capitated program; 5.09/year in the fee-for-service system). However, the average number of prescriptions (1.9 versus 4.9 per year), average number of hospital admissions per recipient (0.11 versus 0.22 per year), and average number of hospital days per 1,000 recipients (461 versus 909 per year) were 5% to 60% lower in the capitated group than in the fee-for-service group. The Citicare capitated program resulted in a dramatic reduction in healthcare resource utilization compared with the concurrent fee-for-service system for statewide Medicaid recipients.