Debate over healthcare reform persists

With Congress’ August recess just around the corner, federal policymakers are working around the clock to make progress on key legislative priorities, particularly in healthcare. ...

With Congress’ August recess just around the corner, federal policymakers are working around the clock to make progress on key legislative priorities, particularly in healthcare. The stakes are huge. Clearly there will be winners and losers once the dust settles in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Yet remarkably, the opposition to reform that we saw back in 1994 is taking a very different form in 2009. While critics were willing to wage war against any reform at all and to take on former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton directly and personally, there is little appetite today for defeating healthcare reform or picking a fight with the White House.

If you flip through the ads in any Hill rag, it appears everybody’s on the same side: Quality must go up. Costs must go down. Access must be increased.

Can we all sing Kumbaya?

The reality is, the battle around healthcare reform is indeed being waged, but as skirmishes over specific elements of reform, such as the inclusion of a government plan to compete against private insurers. The debate is being driven more heavily by social media than by TV advertising – with thousands of voices weighing in on Twitter, Facebook, and through listservs, e-mails, vlogs, and blogs. For PR professionals with clients who have a stake in the outcome, this is the time to demonstrate your social media skills, and to enlist advocates online to help shape the debate and carry your clients’ messages.

As long as this president remains popular, all sides will claim to want reform. Whether Washington can reach consensus remains to be seen.

Pam Jenkins, president, Powell Tate, Weber Shandwick’s Public Affairs arm

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