AAHP Launchs Ad Campaign Addressing ‘John Q.’ Movie’s Portrayal of HMOs
The American Association of Health Plans is running full-page advertisements in Hollywood trade newspapers and the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call this week that attempt to "transform" the message of the new movie "John Q." into an "agent for its own political battle," the Wall Street Journal reports. In the movie -- which could be "damaging" for HMOs' public image -- a father holds a hospital emergency room hostage after his employer-sponsored HMO refuses to cover a heart transplant for his son. The ads mark the "first time the health insurers' group has ever advertised in such showbiz publications" (Martinez, Wall Street Journal, 2/14). The ads state, "John Q. It's not just a movie. It's a crisis for 40 million people who can't afford health care. ... Instead of offering solutions, some in Washington are making the problem worse -- pointing fingers and even proposing new laws that will make it harder for employers like John Q.'s to provide quality, affordable health care. Sometimes it seems like health plans are the only ones trying to make health care more affordable" (Sarasohn, Washington Post, 2/14). AAHP President Karen Ignagni said, "We're not being defensive here; we're trying to really shine a spotlight on the problem."
The Journal reports that the movie offered health insurers and hospitals an "interesting marketing question": "Should they ignore the movie, attack it -- or seize on it to promote their own agendas?" According to the Journal, the "often-bashed" HMO industry chose "to embrace it, sort of." The campaign offers AAHP a chance to "finally answer repeated Hollywood HMO-bashing that went largely unanswered in the 1990s," including in such films as "As Good As It Gets," in which the lead character "disparage[s] her HMO for obstructing her asthmatic son's care." At the time, AAHP developed an ad campaign for movie theaters claiming that the film "got it wrong" and that HMOs "have actually improved the lives of children with asthma by helping to reduce emergency room visits." But the company in charge of theater advertising rejected the ads, calling them "negative" (Wall Street Journal, 2/14). AAHP's John Q. ad is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the ad.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.