Big lobbying groups call for healthcare, social security reform

WASHINGTON: The AARP, Business Roundtable, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently kicked off a campaign to promote major reform of healthcare provision and social security.

WASHINGTON: The AARP, Business Roundtable, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently kicked off a campaign to promote major reform of healthcare provision and social security.

Called "Divided We Fail," the AARP-initiated effort calls for full healthcare coverage in the US, either through provision by employers or a requirement that all Americans buy it, with tax breaks provided for the latter. Along with support for legislation to make electronic transmission of medical records easier and the State Children's Healthcare Insurance program, the coalition also is calling for unspecified changes to the social security program.

Business Roundtable communications director Tita Freeman said that while more specifics about the proposals may be unveiled the week of February 19, the campaign for the most part is intended simply to foster greater support within Congress for healthcare and social security reform.

"Our goal in announcing this partnership was to lay down a marker, to say now is the time for leadership in healthcare and financial [security, and] to create the political environment and the political will," Freeman said, compared with the past, when lawmakers might have resisted dramatic changes to healthcare or social security for fear of offending the very constituencies the coalition represents.

Along with direct lobbying of lawmakers, efforts to promote the campaign include media outreach to various outlets, including Op-Ed placements, and a large ad campaign. Powell Tate Weber Shandwick, which works with the Roundtable, will assist the three groups. In addition to the release on March 7 of a survey on national attitudes about healthcare costs and availability, the coalition also plans to hold town hall-type meetings and give speeches at conferences and other venues around the country.

The campaign had a PR hiccup the day of its unveiling, when the Washington Post ran an ad that dropped the "Divided" from the tagline, reading just "We Fail" followed by the names of the three groups. Held up by AARP CEO Bill Novelli, the ad - for which a corrected version ran the next day - got a good laugh at the group's press conference in Washington, Freeman said.

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