PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Business Groups Unveil Ad Campaign
A coalition of employer and health care provider groups yesterday announced a $1 million campaign "aimed at preventing enactment of any new health care mandates," CongressDaily reports (1/21). The New York Times reports that the Health Benefits Coalition, whose members include the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Health Insurance Association of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and the American Association of Health Plans, proposes to spend "at least $1 million on advertising in newspapers and magazines" (Pear, 1/22). The coalition opposes new managed care regulatory legislation, including the patients' "bill of rights" endorsed by President Clinton last fall and the Patient Access to Responsible Care Act introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA).
Creating A Monster
In addition to the advertising campaign, the coalition plans a grassroots effort in select congressional districts. Jack Faris, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "We will work hard to educate members of Congress about the devastating unintended consequences of these proposed mandates. Small businesses ... would be particularly hard hit by increased costs resulting from more government regulation." The coalition unveiled two print ads yesterday. One ad, featuring a photo of Frankenstein, contains the headline, "Washington: Be Careful How You Play Doctor. You Might Mandate a Monster." The second ad reads, "3 Million Employers and more than 100 Million Employees and Their Families have a Message for Washington: Don't Raise Our Health Care Costs" (release, 1/21). Tony Burns, president and CEO of Ryder System Inc. and chair of The Business Roundtable, said, "Increased federal regulations would stifle quality innovations already taking place in the private market. The private sector is responding to the need for quality health care, and we urge the president and Congress to reject government mandates that would burden our system with costly red tape and regulations" (release, 1/22).
The Healthcare Leadership Council yesterday introduced an alternative proposal to improve health care quality. The proposal's "seven-point legislative agenda ... include[s] streamlining Medicare, increasing public support for medical research, and scaling back liability laws to encourage innovation in drugs, medical devices and technology" (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 1/22). At a separate news conference, Pamela Bailey, president of the council, said, "It is not possible or desirable for the government to try to regulate the millions of transactions between buyers and sellers in the nearly trillion-dollar health care market" (Goldreich, Washington Times, 1/22). "We achieve quality care through private sector innovation and excellence, not through regulations, lawyers and red tape," Bailey said (release, 1/21). According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the Norwood bill "would result in more than 300 new federal requirements for group and individual health plans and more than 200 new mandates for self-insured plans" (Sharpe, Wall Street Journal, 1/22).
In Our Defense
The Patient Access to Responsible Care Alliance said Norwood's bill "will not substantially raise managed care costs." According to the group, many of the protections in the Norwood bill were contained in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, and data released by the Health Care Financing Administration show that costs will increase only two percent in 1999 if the regulations are enacted (release, 1/21).
A new Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that media coverage of managed care is mostly neutral, the Los Angeles Times reports. The survey found that "64% of the stories in daily newspaper[s], magazines and TV network news programs from 1990 to 1997 were 'neutral' in tone." One quarter were critical of managed care, while 11% praised the industry (Olmos, 1/22).
The Sunday Los Angeles Times noted that the prescription drug formularies adopted by managed care plans "have emerged as the major new focus of the consumer backlash against managed care." Kathy Perry, a spokesperson for the consumer group Citizens Right to Know, said, "For many ... physicians, their prescribing patterns are being watched very closely, both by medical groups and health plans. If they are noted as prescribing expensive drugs and more of them, they can be penalized both financially and through loss of a contract" (Marsh, 1/18).