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Payor? Provider? Insurance industry lobbyist gets less clear

A June 1 story in Modern Healthcare shines a light on America’s Health Insurance Plans’ rebranding as “AHIP.” Does this indicate an evolution of its mission—or more of the same, but with fewer letters?

When Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that they were still serving up classic deep-fried poultry. But according to the company, the rebranding had a purpose: to let customers know that they had more than just fried chicken on the menu.

KFC’s exercise in name-shrinking is an interesting parallel to what’s happening with America’s Health Insurance Plans. As Modern Healthcare notes, the massive insurance lobbying group, representing dozens of the country’s biggest health insurance companies, announced that it is changing its name to, simply, AHIP. With this modest change comes a new tagline: “Guiding greater health.” We assume this change reflects an expansion of AHIP’s lobbying efforts to better serve members expanding their businesses beyond covered lives. UnitedHealthcare, for example, recently purchased the huge Massachusetts-based physician group Atrius through its Optum subsidiary.

It looks like AHIP is acknowledging the vertical integration fever popping up across the industry it represents, as insurers extend their reach far beyond providing just healthcare coverage and into providing social services, technology products, and actually directing and providing the care itself. Some of them are also rebranding along the way, as Humana has done, by consolidating services into a single brand, CenterWell.

We wonder whether AHIP could also be making an effort to distance itself from the term “health insurance.” The category has taken a bit of a public relations beating in recent years, as health plans make the news in various unsavory contexts—for example, the recent story about how insurers’ in-house pharmacy benefit managers were pressing doctors out of the loop in their patients’ care. Modern Health points out that the 2021 Edelman Global Trust Index gives health insurance pretty poor marks. The pandemic led to a diminished perception of insurers, with Americans losing their trust in health insurers by four percentage points from the previous year.

So, will “AHIP” smell as sweet as “America’s Health Insurance Plans”? Hard to say. It depends on whether the new name is part of a top-down initiative to earnestly re-assess the association’s priorities and recast itself as a genuinely patient-centric organization, as the new tagline implies—or just a branding exercise. In other words, is this real TLC or just more KFC? You tell us, AHIP!

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