Tomorrow is another big day for the Supreme Court, with the ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform legislation, coming down. Everyone will be impacted either which way the decision falls — families, the elderly, those without health insurance, and all of the companies involved in providing, managing, and paying for health care. Those companies, and their PR consultants, have the tough task of preparing for the unknown.
“We’ve been counseling our clients to get out ahead of the decision,” Brendan Daly, EVP and national director of corporate and public affairs at Ogilvy Washington, told us in an email message. “Several health insurance companies proactively communicated that, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, they would continue popular provisions of the health care law, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.”
“No matter how the court rules, the future of health care is changing,” he continued. “Companies should focus on communicating about their contribution to transforming the health care system – how they are working to improve health care delivery and quality of care, while working to reduce costs and waste.”
Different companies feel differently about the health care law. According to an executive at one of the country’s top firms, determining which point of view your client holds is a big part of preparing for the ruling. This same exec, who asked for discretion because of the highly politicized and highly regulated nature of the health care business, also says that health care companies are proceeding with an equal level of caution.
“This is clearly going to be a hot-button issue,” this executive told us over the phone. “No one wants to be on the wrong side of that.”
As a result, many companies are focused on internal communications; analyzing what the business impact will be and how to put measures into practice.
“It’s less about entering the public debate and more about communicating internally,” the executive added. External communications will come when health care companies fully understand what the ruling means and how to apply it properly.
“Not only are there federal changes, but state changes that have to be taken into account and figuring out the overlap will take some time,” this person said.
According to Edie DeVine, VP and deputy director of GCI Health’s San Francisco office, the consequences will be greatest for the health care providers and B2B companies, which experienced a boost because of the separate Hitech Act.
“Being prepared to answer questions such as ‘What happens to our business if the Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional in its entirety? What if specific parts are allowed to stand?’ will allow for thought-out messaging and positioning in the media about their specific concerns, and avoid the stresses – and likely lack of message focus – that comes from ‘shooting from the hip,'” DeVine told us via email.
Politicians and the media will be consumed with responding to the Supreme Court’s decision tomorrow. Health care PR pros and their clients will be consumed with reading it, putting the proper measures in place, and explaining all of that to customers.
[image: EPA, Michael Reynolds]