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Can AHIP Adapt to Healthcare's Shifting Landscape?

By John Commins  
   March 15, 2018

A former health insurance industry executive turned critic likens the new CEO at AHIP to the captain of the Titanic, with daunting challenges ahead as the trade association fights to remain relevant.

America's Health Insurance Plans announced this week that industry insider Matt Eyles will become the next CEO when Marilyn Tavenner retires on June 1.

The change in leadership comes as the trade association for the healthcare industry adjusts to a shifting healthcare landscape. In the past three years AHIP has seen the departure of three of its biggest members, UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, and most recently Humana.

Eyles, whose resume includes jobs at the Congressional Budget Office, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Coventry Health Care, has been with AHIP since 2015, and now serves as its COO. 

Wendell Potter, a former health insurance industry executive turned ardent critic, likens Eyles' new job to "steering the Titanic." He said the new AHIP leader will face daunting challenges in his tenure as the trade association fights to remain relevant.

Potter spoke with HealthLeaders Media. The following is an edited transcript.

HLM: What do you think about the choice of Eyles?

Potter: Given his background, I wasn't surprised that they went with someone like him. He is going to have a very challenging job. He clearly knows his way around Capitol Hill and that is what is most important. At the end of the day, it’s mainly a lobbying and PR job. He is trying to continue to sell the relevancy of the health insurance industry going forward and he is going to have his job cut out for him. I wouldn't want Matt's job. He is steering the Titanic.

HLM: What sort of challenges do you foresee?

Potter: First of all, the health insurance business is changing quite a bit and AHIP has lost some of its biggest dues-paying members. They are not seeing that organization as relevant as it used to be. Many have decided they can do their own PR and lobbying just fine and their interests are not aligned with the remaining members of AHIP, whose base is not as big as it once was. It no longer includes some of the biggest players, so their revenues are not what they used to be.

Plus, the industry itself is changing. In the past several weeks we have seen news of CVS and Aetna wanting to combine, and Cigna and Express Scripts too. So, you've got middlemen insurance companies and PBMs looking to tie-in and become different kinds of companies, not just health insurers.

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.

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