Insurance group launches healthcare spending app

WASHINGTON: America's Health Insurance Plans is increasing its use of digital media platforms in the hope that its messages will be better heard and understood on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON: America's Health Insurance Plans is increasing its use of digital media platforms in the hope that its messages will be better heard and understood on Capitol Hill.

The trade group, whose members include United Healthcare and Aetna, is building on its use of Twitter, blogging, and infographics by launching an iPad app called “US Healthcare Spending 101.” The organization's lobbyists will begin to use the app, which launched Monday, to provide policymakers with healthcare spending data.

“Here in Washington, to break through the clutter, using digital media has become indispensable in communicating about our priority issues,” said Robert Zirkelbach, VP of strategic communications at AHIP.

Zirkelbach said he is unaware of other trade groups using apps to tell their stories on the Hill. Most lobbying-related apps he has seen have helped stakeholders contact their lawmakers effectively, as opposed to sharing information with them.

The app gives users information on how much the country is projected to spend on healthcare in 2020 and what are the biggest drivers of healthcare spending growth. It consolidates 50 years of data from the Congressional Budget Office, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Users can view historical and projected healthcare spending data at the national and state levels, on a per capita basis, or as a percentage of gross domestic product. The app also provides a detailed breakdown of how much the nation is spending on different aspects of the healthcare system, such as hospital care, physician services, prescription drugs, and health plan administrative costs. It also shows how each of these components contributes to healthcare cost growth, according to AHIP.

The organization has spent nearly $5 million this year alone on firms like Ogilvy Government Relations to get its voice heard by policymakers, according to records.

A major issue it is lobbying for is the elimination of a sales tax on health insurance that will begin in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act, Zirkelbach said. The tax is expected to raise $135 billion on premiums over the next 10 years, he said.

“We believe it needs to be repealed because it will actually add to the cost of healthcare coverage,” he said.

The CDC recently began working with AHIP so that it and other members could launch awareness efforts to prevent the spread of type 2 diabetes.

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