MEDICAL MISTAKES: AAHP Ad Campaign Draws Criticism
Hoping to "build public support for a proposal that would require doctors and hospitals to report all serious medical mistakes to a federal agency," the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP) launched a two-week, $200,000 television ad campaign today, USA Today reports (Ullmann/Appleby, 3/28). The ads, which are set to run nationwide on networks such as CNN, warn that "medical mistakes can kill," but "Washington prefers more lawsuits" instead of taking steps to prevent mistakes. The ad indicates that the solution is to "get patients the care they need instead of getting lawyers the clients they want," a reference to a right-to-sue provision that lawmakers are considering in the patients' bill of rights. AAHP President Karen Ignagni said, "For too long, too many have been looking to the courts to solve health care problems. It will not work to improve patient safety" (Gullo, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/29).
A Tricky Move?
The campaign has drawn the ire of hospital leaders, who said it insults medical workers and attempts to divert Congress' attention from patients' rights legislation. Dick Davidson, president of the American Hospital Association, said that the "ads are an attempt to divert attention from the HMO industry's own shortcomings." He added, "What if we ran an ad that says, 'Health plans can kill by failing to connect you with the resources you need on time'?" In a letter to Ignagni, Davidson called the campaign a clear attempt to derail patients' rights legislation and accused AAHP of "undermining the public's confidence in the caregivers to achieve political ends." Ignagni defended the ads, saying that the "campaign is solely an effort to say lawsuits don't solve health care problems" (Appleby, USA Today, 3/29).