While president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration isn’t until tomorrow, healthcare communicators are already feeling the effects of the transition and bracing for change.
It’s a new era, for sure, and unconventional, to say the least. But, fear not, we’re here to help you prepare.
As we look at Trump’s campaign platforms, cabinet picks, and his most recent press conference, there is a clear sense of his priorities in healthcare. As communicators, it’s our job to determine not only the impact on our business, but also how we can contribute to the conversation as thought leaders.
- Repeal/replacement of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”/ACA) – While we know that Trump plans to dismantle ACA, we don’t have a clear sense of what will replace it. During his confirmation hearing yesterday, Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, shared only that a plan would be ready in March. He alluded to some changes, including that “able-bodied” people will need to work to qualify for Medicaid benefits and removing the provision for young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. While Trump has said that there will be “insurance for everybody,” Price was more modest, saying that all Americans will “have the opportunity to gain access” to insurance coverage.
- Pharmaceutical pricing – As Forbes’ Matthew Herper said, “Donald Trump is going to be a populist president. Pharmaceutical companies are a popular villain.” At his press conference on January 11, Trump vowed to slash drug prices by having Medicare negotiate directly with pharmaceutical firms. Trump also lamented the fact that many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are producing goods overseas instead of in the United States. “Drug companies supply their products here but they don’t make them here,” he said.
- Vaccine safety – The link of vaccines to autism has been disproven – it’s a settled issue in the scientific community. But, that may change with the potential appointment of vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to chair a new commission on vaccines. “President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it,” Kennedy said. How will the existing Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices (ACIP) factor into this new commission? As noted by Stat News, Trump has no power to order the ACIP to make recommendations that are not based in evidence or to appoint vaccine doubters to the Commission. States will still create their own requirements for school enrollment. What Trump can do is appoint staffers who may try to steer agencies like the CDC in a new direction and he may influence parents to avoid vaccinating their children.
- Less regulation – If Rep. Tom Price is confirmed as the head of HHS, he will likely continue to champion a healthcare system that enables doctors to focus more on their patients than on insurance paperwork and government rules.
- Privatization of the VA – Unpopular with veterans and opposed by David Shulkin, Trump’s nominee for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump has discussed privatizing the VA to help address access issues.
So, what can you do to best position your organization for this new world order?
- Just the facts, ma’am. We’re in a scientific profession, so stick to the science. If your organization is impacted by Trump’s priorities in health reform, it’s important to get your messaging together and develop a communication platform that is grounded in the facts.
- The best defense is a good offense. Leverage your messaging and communicate to key stakeholders early and often. This is the time to be proactive and create mindshare. Make sure that your executives are prepared to address issues and position them as thought leaders on these topics, if appropriate.
- Get your jobs story straight. Now is the time to emphasize the way that your organization is helping to retain, attract, and create jobs in America. Shipping jobs overseas? Prepare for scrutiny.
- Social media is more important now than ever before. Trump aims to discredit traditional media, and while traditional media isn’t going anywhere, it is important for every organization to be monitoring what the POTUS is saying on social (see what he said about these 19 companies) and leading their own conversations.
They say to prepare for the unexpected and, in our lifetimes, we haven’t had a president quite as unpredictable as Trump. However, what we do know is that we can expect significant changes in healthcare over the next four (maybe more) years. As communicators, we can best position our organizations to handle these changes by getting ahead of them with the right messaging and communication strategies. Good night (or day, or whatever the case may be!) and good luck, my friends!