As the lobbying group for health insurers embarks on its coast-to-coast listening tour and launches an advertising campaign to build support for its healthcare reform ideas, providers said they were encouraged yet still skeptical about the industrys motivations.
The campaign started last week in Columbus, Ohio, where Americas Health Insurance Plans held a roundtable discussion with uninsured Ohioans at a local YMCA. Those uninsured attending the hourlong session included a recent college graduate, a woman who lives at the YMCA and an attorney. Outside, about 200 protesters picketed the event.
AHIPs Campaign for an American Solution is billed as a grass-roots, educational initiative to bring attention to the plight of the nations
47 million uninsured and push for reform based on extending coverage, affordability, quality, value, choice and portability. The advertising campaign will call attention to healthcare challenges, AHIP said, though it would not disclose the cost of the campaign.
In a media teleconference, Karen Ignagni, AHIP president and chief executive officer, said that she would be bringing these ideas across the country to figure out additional challenges and get a sense of what people are experiencing from their healthcare coverage.
AHIP proposes expanding Medicaid and the State Childrens Health Insurance Program to more low-income Americans, creating a healthcare coverage tax credit for working families, establishing a tax-free portable health savings account for health insurance, and starting a federal performance grant to assist states in expanding access and lowering costs. AHIP may modify this proposal based on what the group learns on its tour.
Over the past two years, AHIP has released proposals to alter aspects of the health insurance system, including a plan to change the much-criticized individual insurance market by creating state-run guaranteed access plans for people with high medical costs. The group also released principles on the patient-centered medical home in early July. AHIP is shopping its proposals to state lawmakers around the country.
While the patient-centered medical home plan is in line with principles advocated by the American Academy of Family Physicians and other provider groups, some remain skeptical.
Warren Muth, president of the Ohio State Medical Association, said he cant help but wonder where the industry has been for the past 20 years.
Are they as serious about reform as they say they are? Muth asked. Only time will tell.
The Ohio Hospital Association praised AHIP for the effort. Its going to take everyone, including private health insurers, to get healthcare reform done, said Tiffany Himmelreich, spokeswoman for the association.
Health Care for America Now, a coalition of unions, consumer groups and activists such as MoveOn.org that launched July 8 with $40 million in funding, said that it will expose the new, pseudo-reform industry coalition led by AHIP and lead protests in cities that AHIP visits. Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards and a leading healthcare advocate, is affiliated with the advocacy group.
AHIP, meanwhile, will visit Detroit next on its tour, said the groups spokesman Robert Zirkelbach, adding, Were looking to have a constructive dialogue with people from all walks of life.
with Jennifer Lubell