WASHINGTON, DC: With Medicare reform looming as a hot-button issue in several high-profile 2000 races, PR pros have already begun to spin the debate for public consumption.
WASHINGTON, DC: With Medicare reform looming as a hot-button issue
in several high-profile 2000 races, PR pros have already begun to spin
the debate for public consumption.
Tactics unveiled to date have ranged from policy-centric to wild and
Dark horse candidate Brian Schweitzer, running for Senate in Montana, is
publicizing his support for lower pharmaceutical prices by sponsoring
bus trips to Canadian pharmacies, thus allowing Montana residents to
purchase lower-priced drugs.
While these so-called ’Runs for the Border’ may be little more than a
showy PR tactic from a fringe candidate, they emphasize that the
Medicare issue - which Democrat strategists believe they can capitalize
on - has forced pros to raise the PR ante.
A recent Pew Center survey showed that the Democrats’ positions on
Medicare are preferred over those of the GOP by a 53% to 30% margin.
’Medicare is a big issue because of the way it is perceived by the
American public,’ said Karl Struble, Schweitzer’s media consultant.
’There’s a sense that it’s unfair that Americans pay more for
prescription drugs than people in Mexico or Canada.’
President Clinton has proposed that a voluntary drug benefit should be
added to Medicare. Yet critics claim he is just tacking on added
coverage without introducing necessary structural reforms.
Two drug-industry allied groups with overlapping memberships - the
Alliance to Improve Medicare and Citizens for Better Medicare - are
planning PR efforts of their own.
Citizens for Better Medicare has been organizing an extensive
advertising and PR campaign, attempting to warn affected parties that,
under the White House plan, seniors could lose coverage and ’end up in a
big government program.’ The President, however, criticized this
campaign last month as a transparent attempt by the pharmaceutical
industry to distort the debate.
Peter Robinson, a SVP and government relations manager in Ketchum’s DC
office, doesn’t see a resolution to the issue any time soon. The
Democrats and Republicans, he believes, could find common ground or just
as easily end up resorting to election-year demagoguery.