Healthcare advocacy group launches

WASHINGTON: The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR) launched last week after six weeks of communications efforts built the organization from the ground up and prepared its disparate members for what could be the largest ever push for healthcare reform from corporate America.

WASHINGTON: The Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform (CAHR) launched last week after six weeks of communications efforts built the organization from the ground up and prepared its disparate members for what could be the largest ever push for healthcare reform from corporate America.

Led by Safeway chairman and CEO Steve Burd, CAHR announced its formation last Monday after 36 companies agreed to sign on. While initial communications effort focused on the launch of the organization, the group will now begin planning a strategy to move forward.

Quinn Gillespie and Associates are coordinating communications from Washington D.C. while Wilson-Miller Communications have been brought in to assist in media relations and the communications operation in California.

"We obviously needed to have membership before we could announce, so there were a number of different outreach efforts we made to companies," said Elizabeth Hogan, executive director of CAHR and an associate with Quinn Gillespie. "From here it's an evolving strategy. It's something every voice in the coalition will have a say in and we're going to be talking about it in the next couple weeks."

Next week, the California operations will take center stage with an announcement in Sacramento and a roundtable discussion with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and key leaders from the state legislature. Hogan said the group has not yet reached out to presidential candidates, but she imagines that will take place in the future.

"In terms of the communications operation, our goal is to supplement and to augment what's going on at the policy level," said Julie Soderlund, managing director of Wilson-Miller Communications. "It wasn't formed with the purpose of generating press, we were formed to be sure the companies were engaging in the debate."

The principles of the organization are a market-based healthcare system, universal coverage with individual responsibility, financial assistance for low-income individuals, healthier behavior and incentives, and equal tax treatment.

The coalition also includes companies such as PepsiCo, General Mills, and Pacific Gas and Electric. Drug companies and insurers such as Aetna and Blue Shield of California are also members.

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