Health Reform Myths and Facts: Part Three

In the final part of the Health Reform Myths and Facts series, we explore the role of government relations professionals and what they are responsible for being a part of.  They need to be more active outside of the government world than you may think.

Myth #3:  The Company’s government relations professionals should handle government “stuff.” 

Fact:  Government relations and communications working together is the only way to maximize the opportunities and mitigate the challenges posed by PPACA. 

It’s easy for communications professionals to think that their companies’ government relations departments “have it covered” when it comes to influencing the government and understanding the impact legislation will have on business.  There are at least two flaws in this line of thinking. 

First, no one really “has it covered.”  In April, CMS’ Chief Actuary, Richard S. Foster, reported to Congress that, “The actual future impacts of the PPACA on health expenditures, insured status, individual decisions, and employer behavior are very uncertain. The legislation would result in numerous changes in the way health care insurance is provided and paid for in the U.S., and the scope and magnitude of these changes are such that few precedents exist for use in estimation.”   If he doesn’t know what is going to happen, no one knows. 

Second is the flawed belief that government relations professionals know everything you casino online bonus know about how communications strategy can shape outcomes in the brave new world of health reform.  Believe me, they are spending ALL of their time trying to understand the new reforms, which have come in a wave of advisories, solicitations and announcements too numerous to list here. If you aren’t telling them how Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and good old fashioned print and broadcast media are shaping perceptions of your company and its business practices, no one will.  The government relations team is not thinking about how the full breadth of communications could help further their advocacy goals, and they certainly are not thinking about how their work might help you accomplish your communication goals.

One for-profit company I worked with really understands how using issues-based communications can advance its own political and communication goals.  The company created an initiative to bring together the five major non-governmental organizations (NGOS) in the disease category most important to its business, to discuss the key policy issues being debated as part of PPACA.  Although the NGOs individually had strong policy platforms, there had previously been very little coordination among the groups.  My client dedicated significant company resources from both its government relations and communications divisions to seek commonality and align the groups where possible.  The result was a strong united voice in letters to Congress, press releases and inside-the-beltway issue ads.  Some of the issues discussed were not important to my client’s political agenda at all, which only served to bolster its reputation among the NGOs beyond what the initiative already had accomplished.  The effort by my client to convene, converse and promote common purpose among these groups demonstrated that they truly cared about the disease — and not just their own products. 

In conclusion, communications specialists have much to gain from — and much to contribute to ­­– their counterparts in government relations. But if you wait for an invitation to this dance, it may never come.  You, communications professional, need to take the first steps onto the floor and find yourself a partner.   

If you work in healthcare communications and are going about your job the same way you did on January 1st —you might as well be hugging the wall in the 6th grade dance hall.  You don’t have to be Fred Astaire to ask someone to dance.  But you do need to get out there.

Read the full article, including myths 1 & 2, as it appeared in Communiqué magazine.

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