APCO’s TradeMarks Study has been conducted entirely within the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) era; as a result, the health care sector has been fairly front-and-center in the political debates taking place over this timeframe. This fact partly explains why the six health care associations in our study collectively have been rated as the top-performing group in nearly every survey – they must be on top of their games or risk falling prey to the political winds. A handful of these associations have, in fact, risen to the occasion over the years to defend their members’ ability to operate, protect the reputation of their members and share information and insights on legislation and regulation being considered.
Given the 2018 landscape and potential 2019 Congressional composition and agenda, here are three ways health care associations and their member companies should be preparing now:
- Agile stakeholder mapping and engagement: In 2018, pressure on the health care sector around pricing and the fate of the ACA elevates the impact of the relationships these associations have built and nurtured, and their ability to shape or stave off potentially harmful laws and policies. The burden to identify and activate advocates within government remains critical to industry perceptions and its ability to operate.
- Prioritize owned communication channels: Midterm election campaigns highlighting health care issues, including cost, pre-existing conditions and Medicare for All as a solution to our health care woes, means the sector is having trouble achieving positive press. As a result, policy influencers in our study place greater emphasis on health care associations being effective users of social media to get out their own messages to influencers and the public. Health care associations that are effectively using social media and speaking with a unified voice will be better positioned for success in 2019.
- Flex your convening power: The continued scrutiny of the health care sector suggests there is an opportunity for health care associations to use their deep expertise and recognized leadership to build authentic connections via coalitions and events to advance policy interests. Despite sometimes competing interests and differing perspectives of the ACA, it is imperative for the various players in the sector to unite forcefully to convey the benefits the private sector adds to our uniquely American health care system.
It is imperative for the health care sector to hit the ground running in January 2019, particularly if there are changes in the Congressional composition. Our work in Washington highlights the difficulties facing the health care sector yet identifies opportunities for it to play a meaningful role in shaping the future of the health care system and the role of private entities within it. Focusing on identifying and engaging stakeholders, getting your message out and constructively adding to the policy dialogue is imperative for continued success in Washington and the marketplace.