The Group Health Association of America is planning to counteract negative media coverage of HMOs through a campaign to redefine managed care as a "healthcare philosophy" instead of a business arrangement.
"Going forward, our mission will be to define ourselves in a way that makes it clear we represent a healthcare philosophy as opposed to a business philosophy," Susan Pisano, GHAA director of communications, told MODERN HEALTHCARE. The GHAA is the trade group representing HMOs.
Decisions on specific strategies will be made at a February policy conference, she said.
Stories about how HMOs deny care while piling up profits have been multiplying in the press and on television. The GHAA and individual HMO officials say they are baffled because numerous polls show that millions are satisfied with the care they receive in HMOs, and HMOs are growing steadily (Dec. 11, 1995, p. 60).
Pisano said "an education process" is in order, not just in response to negative media coverage but because "what we do is infused throughout the healthcare system.
"So much of the discussion in the media about HMOs has centered on whether or not we save money and how much money we save," Pisano said. "That really in a lot of respects misses the point stunningly, because the approach that we bring to healthcare is the idea that cost and quality are not warring principles."
People have lost sight of the fact that HMOs started in the early 1970s "as a better way to treat people," practicing prevention, identifying those at risk, reminding them to come in for checkups and doing better measurements, Pisano said.
"What happened was, in the 1980s employers became desperate to find a way to save healthcare costs," she said, and HMOs became primarily associated with cost savings. "The idea that (HMOs are) a different philosophy of healthcare that many believe is a better way" has been largely lost, she said.
One of the reasons the GHAA is merging with the American Managed Care and Review Association is to "leverage our resources" and tell that story, she said. The groups plan to announce their new name after the February meeting.
"You can expect we will step up all our communications efforts.........and engage all of our important audiences in a discussion about this," Pisano said. The effort "will be broad-based and will not focus exclusively on the media" but will include working with HMOs around the country, she said.