Campaigns: Public Affairs - Healthcare team saves hospitals

The clock was ticking. Critical state funding for New York’s teaching hospitals, as well as money to treat uninsured patients, was at risk.

The clock was ticking. Critical state funding for New York’s teaching hospitals, as well as money to treat uninsured patients, was at risk.

The clock was ticking. Critical state funding for New York’s

teaching hospitals, as well as money to treat uninsured patients, was at

risk.



To keep the money rolling in, Republican governor George Pataki had to

sign the Health Care Reform Act 2000 by December 31, 1999.



The previous legislation, the Health Care Reform Act of 1996, allocated

more than dollars 1 billion annually to hospitals for critically

important programs, and the revised bill proposed increased aid for the

uninsured, while preserving money for teaching hospitals.



The likelihood of the 2000 bill passing was not promising. Although the

state assembly had passed the proposal in the summer, it was unclear how

the senate would act. The governor also had not made a decision.



To campaign in favor of the bill, the Greater New York Hospital

Association and 1199 Service Employees International Union formed the

Healthcare Education Project. The project also pushed a program called

Family Health Plus, which wanted to use money from both the state’s

settlement with tobacco companies and increased cigarette taxes to

expand health coverage to uninsured New Yorkers.





Strategy



Though a majority of New Yorkers favored the 2000 act’s provisions,

according to the project’s own polling, an education campaign was needed

to convert that support into action. ’The public had no idea what HCRA

or Family Health Plus was,’ notes Kenneth Raske, president of the

Greater New York Hospital Association.



The Healthcare Education Project spent the summer organizing and by fall

announced the start of a multimillion-dollar campaign to educate New

Yorkers about the bill.





Tactics



In October, the project held press conferences in New York City and

Albany to announce the campaign, generating press coverage in many of

the major dailies.



An extensive paid TV and radio advertising campaign was also waged,

emphasizing the precariousness of the situation with the line, ’Years of

health care cuts have a lot of us walking a tightrope - another round of

health care cuts could put us all at risk.’ Each commercial ended with

800 numbers so people could order packets with postcards to send to

state officials.



Moreover, the project launched a massive direct mail effort, and its web

site helped visitors send e-mail to their legislators. And to broaden

the lobbying effort, large posters with attached postcards addressed to

Pataki and state senators were placed in hospitals.



Citizen Action, a member of the project, held town hall meetings where

uninsured people could explain their plight. Additionally, hospital

board members were urged to speak on behalf of the bill throughout their

communities.



Efforts were also made to mobilize the religious community behind HCRA

2000.





Results



About 35,000 people responded to the TV and radio ads. In response to

the direct mail and poster efforts, over 250,000 postcards were sent to

Pataki’s office, while 200,000 went to state senators.



The legislature reconvened in mid-December. A deal was struck, and both

bodies passed the consensus legislation. The governor signed the bill on

December 30.





Future



New Yorkers will still have their teaching hospitals funded and

healthcare coverage will be expanded.



Client: Healthcare Education Project

PR Team: Morris, Carrick & Guma (campaign strategy and advertising);

Kiley & Company (opinion research); GNYHA Public Affairs and Sunshine

Consulting (PR)

Campaign: HCRA 2000

Time Frame: July to December 1999

Budget: about dollars 10 million (80% for advertising; 20% for

grass-roots and PR)



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