MCOs No Longer on the Defensive?
The managed care industry is "shifting to offense from defense," ready to use its "thousands of allies" outside the health care industry and large advertising budget as ammunition to help it "reach a compromise on managed care reform," the Chicago Tribune reports. As it hosts its annual spring policy conference in Washington, D.C., this week, the American Association of Health Plans said that "growing support from large self-insured employers and small businesses" is helping the organization to "fend off political attacks and stall momentum" on patients' rights legislation. "We now have a national database of employers on our side," AAHP Vice President and Chief of Strategic Planning Mark Merritt said. Merritt added that in the past, the managed care industry has "had to play almost total defense" against criticism from doctors, patient advocates and the Clinton administration. But times and attitudes have changed, Merritt said, adding, "People now realize that if you eviscerate managed care, you are hurting your constituents, your employers." Last year, AAHP spent a "record" $5 million on advertising, public relations and "grassroots expenditures," and the group plans to "further rev up [its] outreach campaigns" this year (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 2/27). Managed care, the "popular scapegoat" for "everything from shoddy health care to employers' shrinking budgets," is perhaps being "unfairly criticized," the Florida Times-Union reports. Uwe Reinhardt, health economist at Princeton University, said that consumers "have unrealistic expectations" for health care, desiring "the best care, readily available at almost unrealistically low costs." Analysts note that the next "answer" to the "insurance crisis" will likely face criticism similar to that against managed care, because "having it all comes at a cost" (Skidmore, Florida Times-Union, 2/25).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.