AAHP steps up campaign for HMO Medicare funding

WASHINGTON, DC: HMOs have traditionally posed near-impossible challenges for healthcare PR pros. If the Association of American Health Plans (AAHP) has its way, however, this will soon change.

WASHINGTON, DC: HMOs have traditionally posed near-impossible challenges for healthcare PR pros. If the Association of American Health Plans (AAHP) has its way, however, this will soon change.

WASHINGTON, DC: HMOs have traditionally posed near-impossible

challenges for healthcare PR pros. If the Association of American Health

Plans (AAHP) has its way, however, this will soon change.



The group has announced plans to step up its campaign advocating fair

funding for HMOs participating in the Medicare system. The new drive

starts right before March 1, when the Health Care Finance Administration

will announce new Medicare reimbursement rates. Central to the AAHP

effort will be its claim that HMOs can provide seniors with lower costs

and greater benefits than the traditional Medicare fee-for-service

reimbursement.



’We want to be out there defining the debate,’ said Mark Merritt,

VP/chief of strategic planning and public affairs for the AAHP. He said

efforts so far have been successful in that no presidential candidate

has effectively used the HMO reform issue to galvanize voters.



Last year’s drive included a host of press conferences and grass-roots

activities. This year, Merritt foresees a greater role for talk radio

and the Internet, as well as a greater focus on districts in which

members of Congress supported ’patient protection’ legislation.



The legislation, which is currently in conference, seeks to regulate

HMOs more closely. It is unclear whether Congress will pass a compromise

bill or simply take a pass on the entire issue. Doing the latter,

however, could well give the Democrats an issue to run on in upcoming

elections.



Last month, the AAHP mounted vigorous grass-roots and PR campaigns in

Iowa and New Hampshire, targeting HMO-bashing politicians interested in

imposing new regulations on the industry. The organization’s post-caucus

and primary polling in the two states found that voters do not view HMO

reform as a pressing issue. Even those voters who stated their concern

about healthcare were more likely to cite covering the uninsured and

funding Medicare programs as the most important issues.



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