DC think tank leads coalition in effort to stir up national health debate

WASHINGTON: Washington think tank The Wye River Group on Healthcare (WRGH) will soon decide which DC agency will help it and a broad coalition stir up a more targeted healthcare debate across the country.

WASHINGTON: Washington think tank The Wye River Group on Healthcare (WRGH) will soon decide which DC agency will help it and a broad coalition stir up a more targeted healthcare debate across the country.

The WRGH, with the backing of the White House, the Business Roundtable, AARP, PhRMA, the American Cancer Society, the American Association of Healthcare Plans, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and others, embarked on a listening tour of 10 cities last summer in an attempt to gauge local attitudes - professional and otherwise - toward healthcare.

The proposed PR effort will build on the lessons learned from the tour, with the objective of stirring debate on the topic among average citizens, healthcare providers, and politicians.

"One of the things that came out of these communities was the need for Americans to talk about what they want from healthcare," said principal Jon Comola. "So we sent out an RFI, and asked PR firms for ideas on how you construct a national dialogue on healthcare."

Hill & Knowlton, Porter Novelli, Qorvis Communications, Edelman, and Burson-Marsteller were all scheduled to deliver their first pitches for the business last Thursday.

Comola said the WRGH and its partners had yet to determine how much money or time they would devote to the project. "We're looking at awarding a one-year contract at first," he said, "but given where the economy is, it makes sense to try and start out modest, then ramp it up as we prove successful."

He estimated the initial contract to be worth less than $1 million, but that it could run into the mid-seven figures if successful.

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