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Posted by tonyb on March 21, 2001 at 06:50:23:


By Karen Pallarito

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The American Association of Health Plans (AAHP), the largest organization
representing health insurance companies, is gearing up for a major television campaign aimed at
convincing key lawmakers that suing health plans is not the way to resolve the nation's healthcare disputes.

Building on results of a new physician poll, AAHP will air a 30-second spot suggesting that letting
independent doctors decide what is best for patients through an external review process is the answer, not
expanding patients' right to sue health plans. The ad is slated to air sometime in the next week.

AAHP expects to spend $1 million on advertising and grassroots activities, including the TV spot, during this
phase of its campaign, according to AAHP spokesman Phil Blando.

The ad will air ``in Washington and those markets where lawmakers are going to be central to solving the
debate,'' he said.

One of the AAHP's target markets is Chicago, home to the American Medical Association (AMA), the Chicago
Tribune reported Tuesday. The AMA--at loggerheads with the AAHP over this issue--has lobbied vigorously
to win support for a stringent patient's bill of rights.

AAHP's latest effort to turn the debate away from the right to sue builds on results of a survey of 400 doctors
nationwide conducted for the association by Ayers, McHenry & Associates. Seventy-five percent of
physicians in the poll said that they preferred an appeals process as the best way for patients to resolve
disputes with their health plans.

``Some politicians think the best way to resolve healthcare disputes is more lawsuits,'' the television spot
begins. ``But a new national survey says three out of four doctors disagree.'' The spot urges consumers to
call their member of Congress and ``ask them if they're protecting you or the trial lawyers.''

In testimony on Capitol Hill last Thursday, the AMA stuck to its guns on the liability issue. ``It simply isn't fair
to grant a shield of immunity to health plans--a shield not given to any other person or business entity,'' AMA
Trustee Dr. Donald J. Palmisano told the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

Based on the heated exchange that took place among members of that subcommittee, an imminent
resolution of the 6-year-old debate seems unlikely.

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