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CLINTON HEALTH REFORM TASK FORCE TO MEET WITH HIMA ON MARCH 2 AS PART OF PLANNED "INFORMAL WORKING" SESSIONS WITH 20 HEALTH CARE INTEREST GROUPS

This article was originally published in The Gray Sheet

Executive Summary

The Health Industry Manufacturers Association will go to the White House March 2 to participate in an "informal working" session with the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. At the March 2 session, HIMA likely will work to dispel the impression that health technology is a principal factor in the escalating cost of health care, emphasizing instead that overutilization, rather than technology itself, is driving up costs. HIMA also will likely discuss its support for minimal government involvement in a managed competition health care program. HIMA recently sent its recommendations regarding health care reform to Clinton staffers ("The Gray Sheet" Dec. 21, p. 11). The task force also is meeting with four drug industry trade associations on March 2. The group is scheduled to meet with a total of about 20 interest groups during the first week of March, including the Health Insurance Association of America on March 1 and hospital associations on March 5. The task force met with the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics on Feb. 24 and managed care groups such as the Group Health Association of America on Feb. 26. The task force is understood to still be in the "broadening" phase of its development of health care reform legislation as it continues to assess possible reform actions. The process of narrowing policy options is expected to begin in three to four weeks. While giving industry representatives a chance to air their concerns, the meeting may not yield much knowledge about specifics of the administration's evolving health care reform proposals. The industry associations also will not make formal presentations but instead will answer questions and participate in an open forum on the health care reform effort. Indicative of the White House's closed-mouth approach, invited groups are being told only that they will be meeting with unnamed representatives of the task force. HIMA apparently is the only device trade association participating in the March 2 meetings. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association's diagnostic imaging and therapy systems division and the nascent Medical Device Manufacturers Association were not invited. The biotechnology industry also will not be represented; the merging Industrial Biotechnology Association and Association of Biotechnology Companies were not invited. Though some health associations are beginning to win meetings with Administration officials working on health care reform, others are trying to strip away the confidentiality that has so far marked the task force's proceedings. A suit filed by the Tucson, Arizona-based Association of American Physicians and Surgeons on Feb. 24 charges the task force with violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Government in the Sunshine Act. The Washington,D.C. federal district court has scheduled a March 5 hearing on the suit's motion for an injunction on further task force closed meetings. The task force plans to step up communications with Republican leaders. During the weekend of Feb. 27, First Lady and task force Chair Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ira Magaziner are expected to speak with Senate Republicans, who are holding a retreat devoted to health care in Annapolis, Maryland.
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