CAHP: New Leader Flusters Both Industry, Consumer Interests
The California Association of Health Plan's decision to hire former California Common Cause head Walter Zelman as its new president and CEO "sent ripples through both the business and public-interest worlds," the Wall Street Journal/California Edition reports. "We believe that it's a synergistic choice," said Bruce Bodaken, chair of CAHP's board. "Walter has always been an advocate of managed care and his consumer advocacy is ... actually quite consistent. We're fashioning both our public and internal operations in ways that are consistent with what's important to consumers," he continued. But the Journal reports that "Zelman's bygone public-interest colleagues aren't buying that line," contending that he "can't be an advocate for both consumers and industry." Harvey Rosenfield of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said he would "rather be the captain of the Titanic" than work for HMOs and called Zelman's decision a "tragedy." Echoing these sentiments, Consumers Union senior advocate Harry Snyder said, "It's just so disheartening. We're just really kind of sick about it all."
Back And Forth
But, the Journal reports, Zelman has "a surprisingly upbeat response to all the obituaries." He said, "I'm glad they have good memories of me, and I hope they aren't too quick to prejudge. I haven't fundamentally changed my attitudes, and I look forward to working effectively with" consumer-rights groups. In addition, he said he "doesn't view the HMO debate as an 'us vs. them' issue," adding that he hopes "that we don't all start from that point of view." While other consumer advocates say that view is "naive," the Journal reports that "many business leaders have literally been left speechless by the fact that an erstwhile nemesis has been welcomed into their fold." The senior vice president for the state Chamber of Commerce, Fred Main, said, "We don't have any comment." And Les Spahnn, an HMO lobbyist, said, "You can say I declined to comment." Nevertheless, others say Zelman will fill the badly needed role of leader for the HMO industry. Sara Singer, executive director of Stanford University's Center for Health Policy, said CAHP has "really been hampered by not having a leader." She said, "I don't think any organization that doesn't have a leader can make any innovative steps. And the managed care industry right now could use strong leadership" (Benson, 9/9).