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
’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
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.