PR gets credit for managed care's fit financial outlook

WASHINGTON, DC: Can better PR help stabilize investments in the managed care industry?

WASHINGTON, DC: Can better PR help stabilize investments in the managed care industry?

A recent report by Goldman Sachs Investment Research contends the managed care sector will have less volatile earnings in the future. Among other things, the report attributes this to improved management and computer capabilities.

But the strong PR efforts mounted by the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), the trade association that represents managed care organizations (MCOs), were also cited as a reason for the industry's improved financial outlook.

Goldman Sachs analysts Charles Boorady and Nina Pyle found that the MCO industry is 'more coordinated than ever, especially through the AAHP, and is sending a unified and effective message to Washington.'

AAHP president Karen Ignagni and other key AAHP personnel regularly brief Wall Street analysts on their PR efforts as well as on the more typical financial and industry developments. Wall Street analysts also receive AAHP faxes.

'We make them aware that we have the PR apparatus to deal with (legislative threats). That in turn makes Wall Street more confident about our industry,' said Mark Merritt, AAHP VP of strategic planning and public affairs.

The AAHP's efforts are waged on several issues, and integrate PR and grassroots activities with advertising. On-site campaign managers in targeted media markets stage news events and help to mobilize allied groups (such as small businesses and seniors) to press the industry's agenda.

MCOs have been at the flashpoint of the healthcare debate recently, as Congress has been considering patients' rights legislation that would change the way they do business.

The AAHP, in challenging the drive for patients' rights, commissioned the Barents Group of KPMG Peat Marwick to develop economic impact projections on the cost to consumers that would be created by such laws.

Currently, an effort is being waged in New Hampshire and Iowa to convince presidential candidates that attacking HMOs is not a winning issue.

AAHP polled baby boomers (45-55), near-seniors (55-65), and seniors (65 and over) to determine their healthcare priorities. The survey found that more voters were concerned with fixing Medicare and covering the uninsured than reforming HMOs.

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