WHITE HOUSE 2000: AAHP Takes Temp Of GOP Voters
American Association of Health Plan leaders "are convinced" that managed care reform is not a priority for "those who are likely to vote in the Republican presidential primary in 2000," the Nashua Telegraph reports. A recent AAHP poll of New Hampshire Republican voters found that more than half said candidates should address health insurance affordability as their "highest priority," while only 3% thought having the right to sue a managed care plan was a priority and only 6% thought having an independent appeals process was a priority. AAHP Vice President Mark Merritt said, "We want to make it very clear today to Republican presidential candidates that HMO bashing is not the way to go. It is not smart, it is not going to move voters" (Landrigan, 1/12). Whit Ayers, the GOP pollster who conducted the survey, added, "This is an early indication that anti-managed care themes will not resonate with New Hampshire Republican primary voters" (Rayno, Foster's Daily Democrat, 1/12). Trish Newbury, a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Citizen Alliance, disputed AAHP's conclusions, stressing that only one group was sampled. She said, "What about the other voters of New Hampshire? This is an issue that concerns all the voters, not just one party. It may be unpopular with one segment of New Hampshire, but that does not mean reform is unwanted by the majority." She also said Ayers inflated the Congressional Budget Office estimates of how much HMO reforms would increase premiums. She said, "The [CBO] estimates they will cost at most a few dollars a month, not $25 as this poll suggests. We really don't think the information is relevant in light of this" (Telegraph, 1/12).
An editorial in yesterday's Manchester Union Leader argues that while the Republican party searches for an identity, "the one thing the party should not do is find its identity in the Democrats' issues," such as HMO bashing. The piece states that Democrats "specialize in retailing HMO horror stories, regaling the public with lurid accounts of denied care in order to gin up a phony crisis." They seek to turn managed care into the Joe Camel of the next election cycle, as "it plays well with two of the party's most important constituencies: trial attorneys and Big Labor." The editorial concludes that HMO bashing "would seem an odd way for the GOP to rediscover its identity" (1/13).