AAHP and PhRMA revamp PR efforts to win Hill support

WASHINGTON: Two dominant players on the DC healthcare advocacy scene initiated some major changes to their PR functions last week.

WASHINGTON: Two dominant players on the DC healthcare advocacy scene initiated some major changes to their PR functions last week.

The American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), which represents more than 1,000 HMOs and related providers, is revamping its communications office to focus on a new strategy.

Dan Leonard, a veteran DC strategist who helped usher in the 1994 "Republican Revolution" as head of communications for the National Republican Congressional Committee, comes aboard today as the new SVP for strategic planning and public affairs. With his arrival comes a new, more aggressive approach to communications.

Weary of being cast as the perpetual bad guy in debates over issues such as prescription drug coverage and a Patient's Bill of Rights, the AAHP now intends to redraft the terms of the national healthcare conversation.

"For the past five years, the folks on Capitol Hill have been having a very political debate without being grounded in policy," said CEO Karen Ignagni.

Armed with new data showing that Americans would actually pay significantly more for healthcare without HMOs while losing valuable services, AAHP will attempt to highlight for legislators, consumers, and doctors the added value provided by managed care.

Meanwhile, Leonard's predecessor is heading to the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Mark Merritt will join the group on October 7, where he will head its newly created strategic communications and public affairs division.

Much like AAHP, PhRMA has been the subject of much debate in Congress in recent years. It too will focus on promoting the value of its members' products to legislators and the public.

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