CAHP: Is New Head Zelman ‘Defecting To The Enemy’?
A New York Times profile of Walter Zelman, newly appointed president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, takes a look at some industry reactions to his recent "metamorphosis" from consumer activist to HMO spokesperson. Some of Zelman's consumer group colleagues charge that heading the CAHP after serving on Hillary Clinton's health care team and pushing for a Canadian-style health system is tantamount to "defecting to the enemy." Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, called Zelman "sort of a man without a country," adding, "I would rather be a dog catcher than represent the HMOs. He's got a thankless task trying to protect an industry that is doomed." Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, was more enthusiastic. "I think he was a terrific hire," she said. Chip Kahn, president of the Health Industry Association of America, said, "I'm really glad he came over to our side." Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, called Zelman "'a strong consumer person' whose appointment 'signals an industry that knows it has an image problem.'" He added, "He will probably try to do a little more than the industry wants and probably not as much as the consumer groups want." State Rep. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), for whom Zelman once campaigned, said, "Wally's role will be to try to support reforms that the HMOs can live with." For his own part, Zelman said "a lot of people don't understand the economics of health care and the value that managed care has brought in terms of lower health costs, and the potential that it has to improve health care quality" (Freudenheim, 12/27). Click here for previous coverage of Zelman.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.