WASHINGTON: The American Association of Health Plans (AAHP) has teamed up with Hollywood talent agency William Morris as part of its long-term push to improve the image of managed healthcare plans.
Termed a "public affairs effort that joins Washington and Hollywood by Mark Merritt, the AAHP's chief of strategic planning and public affairs, the initiative was designed to position the organization as a resource for writers and producers in the entertainment industry.
"PR is about targeting certain opinion setters, said Steve Sugerman, AAHP consultant. "This initiative will mirror the many PR outreach programs that you see in DC, but with elements that speak to thought leaders in entertainment."
Upon learning that ER is watched by three times as many people each week as NBC Nightly News, the AAHP decided that speaking to Hollywood would be an effective way to reach the masses. "We need to get to all the places that healthcare news is coming from, said Merritt, "and we can't do that if we neglect Hollywood."
The AAHP feels the notorious reputation HMOs have is due largely to the negative way they are portrayed in movies, such as John Q, and TV shows, such as ER. The group maintains its health plans cover 170 million Americans, and anticipates its services will save participants over $200 billion in healthcare costs over the next five years. The current drive is in place to clarify misconceptions that exist.
"This isn't about product placement or dictating, said Mohit Ghose, AAHP spokesman. "It's about sitting down with a screenwriter and educating him on what is and isn't true about a healthcare issue that might be included in a script."