KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Conflicts Of Interest Examined Between Doctors and Medical Industry, AARP And Reform

Health care reform bills include provisions to examine the financial relationships between doctors and the medical industry while some are questioning the AARP's role in reform.

The New York Times on the doctor "sunshine" provisions included in the House reform proposals and one of the Senate measures: "The targets are common business practices like drug company payments to doctors for speeches and consulting services, which have the potential to influence patient care and drive up the nation's medical bills. … Currently, the health overhaul bill in the House and one of two health bills in the Senate would require the makers of drugs, medical devices and medical supplies to file annual reports to the government about their financial ties to doctors." Some worry, however, that the rules might not do enough to force "meaningful disclosure" (Singer, 11/3).

NPR reports on some who say that AARP has a conflict of interest in the health care reform debate because the groups stands to profit from an overhaul. "AARP, which offers several kinds of AARP-branded health insurance, supports the changes proposed in Congress right now. … (But,) Medicare cuts would fall hardest on the lucrative Medicare Advantage program - one of AARP's products. (AARP lobbyist Dave) Certner says the group doesn't have a conflict of interest. 'We are driven by our policy. Our policy drives our advocacy. Our policy drives what we do in terms of our products,' he says. 'And that's been the way it has been from the beginning.' ... Last year, the group collected $222 million in royalties from UnitedHealthcare, which provides most of the health insurance marketed under the AARP brand. That figure is almost as much as AARP collected in dues from its members." AARP remains popular in polling data, NPR reports (Overby, 11/4).

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