PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Insurance Ad Blitz Heats Up
The two leading health insurance lobbying groups yesterday unveiled the advertising broadsides they will fire in coming weeks against the Dingell-Norwood managed care reform bill in Congress. "This issue concerns us more than anything else since '93-'94," said Health Insurance Association of America President Chip Kahn. As such, he said, the industry plans to spend more than $1 million "working toward a cacophony" of criticism of "Dingwood." He said $250,000 of the figure will come from his organization, which plans to target "states and House districts where members have co-sponsored, or are leaning toward supporting, managed care reform." Those members, Kahn said, "will rue the day they decided to endorse it" (Morrissey, CongressDaily, 8/19). HIAA will run a 60-second radio spot in selected markets in New York, Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Wyoming from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3 (HIAA release, 8/19). Over the sound of a stopwatch ticking, the narrator says, "Some Republicans have actually been hobnobbing with President Clinton and his biggest financial backers -- America's trial lawyers -- in support of legislation they're calling 'the Patients' Bill of Rights.' But what it really does is give government bureaucrats the freedom to create more regulations and more red tape -- and give trial lawyers more opportunities to cash in on all kinds of frivolous lawsuits" (CongressDaily, 8/19). The ads then name the local House member and ask the listener to call a 1-800 number to voice opposition to the bill. Kahn said, "The Norwood-Dingell bill would be devastating for consumers and employers alike. It places health care truly at the mercy of the trial attorneys, and through excessive regulation and red tape, will add up to $200 to each family's health care costs" (HIAA release, 8/19).
The Big Guns
The American Association of Health Plans likewise announced a television, print and direct mail campaign. The mailing portrays a dichotomy between helping trial lawyers and helping "working Americans." It reads: "More than 40 million Americans already have no health insurance. Making it even more expensive is the wrong way to go. But that's what the Dingell-Norwood trial lawyer protection act would do." In the same vein, one TV ad says "if the lawyers win -- working families lose." In another ad, the narrator says, "They call that patient protection. But you know who they're really protecting." (Click here to view the text of the mailing and the two television ads.) AAHP President Karen Ignagni said, "We want working Americans and small businesses to know that they will pay the price if Congress enacts new liability laws. Proposals, including Dingell-Norwood, aren't about patient protection -- they're trial lawyer protection, pure and simple" (AAHP release, 8/19). AAHP spokesperson John Murray said the ads will target co-sponsors and members "still on the fence." He added, "We're going to spend whatever it takes" (CongressDaily, 8/19).