By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Throughout his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump promised an early demise of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). Today, “repealing and replacing” Obamacare remains a priority. However, details remain elusive. Consequently what that means for healthcare marketing plans, strategy, and tactics in coming months isn’t clear.
In fact, surveys reveal that segments of the general public didn’t understand the ACA. What’s more, the costs of healthcare insurance and services have gone up, not down as promised. There is a continuing need for healthcare marketing to communicate change and help educate the consumer.
As the new administration takes the national stage, the president-elect and his cabinet nominee hint at future healthcare legislation:
Secretary of Health and Human Services…
US Representative Tom Price, a six-term Republican congressman, and Obamacare critic, was nominated to be secretary of health and human services. It’s especially relevant that Dr. Price is an MD and worked for many years in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon.
“While some Republicans have attacked the Affordable Care Act without proposing an alternative,” writes The New York Times, “Mr. Price has introduced bills offering a detailed, comprehensive replacement plan in every Congress since 2009 when Democrats started work on the legislation.
“His most frequent objection to the law is that it interferes with the ability of patients and doctors to make medical decisions—a concern he will surely take with him if he wins Senate confirmation. Now, he says: ‘Premiums have gone up, not down. Many Americans lost the health coverage they were told time and time again by the president that they could keep. Choices are fewer.’
“The legislation Mr. Price has proposed, the Empowering Patients First Act, would repeal the Affordable Care Act and offer age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies.
“The bill would create incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts; offer grants to states to subsidize insurance for ‘high-risk populations’; allow insurers licensed in one state to sell policies to residents of others; and authorize business and professional groups to provide coverage to members through ‘association health plans.’”
The Trump vision…
Furthermore, president-elect Trump told CBS News in a 60 Minutes interview that he may be open to keeping the Affordable Care Act in some form. As a result, “people with pre-existing conditions will still be covered in the version of health care that Trump wants to see replace Obamacare.”
Further, Mr. Trump told CBS, “there will be no lapse between the repeal of Mr. Obama’s signature healthcare law and its replacement by his version. There won’t be ‘a two-day period’ or ‘a two-year period’ where there’s nothing.” His plan would include free-market options that provide all Americans with access to healthcare. In the 60 Minutes interview, he said he:
- Would “make a deal with existing hospitals” to care for low-income Americans
- Break down regulatory hurdles obstructing competition across state lines
- Removing the individual health insurance mandate
- Making health insurance premiums tax-deductible
- Expanding the use and portability of health savings accounts
- Requiring price transparency for healthcare services, products, and medicine
Healthcare marketing and the new healthcare legislation…
First of all, no one knows—yet—what the new-and-revised healthcare legislation will include. Furthermore, some form of Health Savings Accounts are likely. In addition, healthcare tax credits may follow. But it’s noteworthy that if preliminary predictions hold true, here’s what it could mean for healthcare marketing:
- The changing healthcare environment may always be dynamic
- Healthcare competition among providers and facilities will continue to increase
- Today’s patient will become an informed and demanding consumer
- Healthcare delivery will continue to shift to a retail mindset
- Costs constrain consumer spending; price transparency will be a top consideration
- Customer service, patient experience, and user convenience are market imperatives
In Washington, “quick” is a relative term…
In spite of the campaign rhetoric and post-election posturing, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act may prove to be a relatively slow transition and implementation.
By comparison, the original ACA legislation totaled well over 800 documents, tens of thousands of pages of text, and involved dozens of government agencies and offices. As a result, the ACA took many years to install and rollout.
Although repealing and replacing Obamacare has a high public profile and a high to-do list priority, the process will take time. As a result, a primary role for healthcare marketing will be to communicate change and facilitate education.