NBTH What’s Next for Healthcare Policy: Adam Abrams and Annalyse

Episode transcript:

Adam Abrams

In my job on Capitol Hill, abbreviations and legislative language are used, but when you actually talk to people, you need to talk about the things that really matter to them.

analyze Keller

I think it’s transparency, I think everyone is ready for it, whether it’s going to the hospital, whether it’s drug pricing. I think the American public just wants to know what the cost is that they’re talking about, you know, they’re paying for it.

Robert Traynham

Annalyse and Adam, welcome to our wonderful podcast. Frankly, I like to start with an icebreaker activity. You know, what do you do? This town, we’re in Washington, D.C., and this town is very tense. There are many Type A personalities. You will see many people jogging with their mobile phones. You see a lot of people at football games and obviously they have smart devices because they are always connected. But what do you do when no one is watching? What do you do on Saturday or Sunday to de-stress? To break it down, let me start with you.

Keller

So, I really not only loved escaping Washington, but I wanted to escape the whole world and read science fiction. So, I recently started the Red Rising series, a game that I feel is way too late to play, but it’s a post-apocalyptic planetary challenge. I really want to shrink…

tranham

Wow. I mean, you’re…so awesome, it’s like you’re in another world!

Abrams

For me, I’m chasing my four-year-old, so we live in Capitol Hill, Washington, and you can find us in Eastern Market, running around, but yeah, wherever she goes on her bike. I usually run after her and try to keep up with her.

tranham

So, I understand, you’ve got your priorities straight. So the two of you work at Seven Letters, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C., in the best interests of or the people who are watching. Full disclosure, you work with us as we think about health care policy and messaging. Tell us about your role in Seven Letters. What exactly do you do? analyze?

Keller

So you are absolutely right. This is a public relations company. We help associations like yours as well as corporate clients. You know, we help various industries, and we help them primarily through communications in Washington, D.C., so we’re not necessarily a consumer-focused public affairs firm. But we’re talking to the opinion elite. We’re talking to key stakeholders in Washington. We’re talking to legislators, we’re talking to policymakers, and we’re helping shape the narrative that will best resonate with policymakers on a given issue.

tranham

Adam?

Abrams

Yes, clients come to us most often when they have a challenge or an opportunity, especially when they need to communicate with a niche audience, a special audience, an influential audience, and we have the expertise to find them, build the audience, and communicate expertise and reach them. So whether it’s healthcare stakeholders, or any number of industries, we find ways to develop, build and communicate these important messages.

tranham

You know, one of the things that I always find challenging, but also interesting, frankly, is: how do you deal with really complex domestic policy issues like health care, which is extremely important for obvious reasons, and I don’t know ever want to use the word “stupid,” it’s offensive, but how do you make it accessible or consumerized so that our parents or grandparents can understand? Do you also find this challenge or tension difficult?

Keller

Yes, I think that’s right. I mean, I think a lot of industries get stuck in their own acronyms. This can be very simple measures. I mean, you’re saying the same thing. You’re just using language that people are familiar with. You know, you have to cater your message to your audience. If you want an audience, you know, if your audience is the American public, you have to understand that they’re not going to understand the terms that we use here a lot.

Abrams

Yes. You said it, Analyse said it, you both talked about the audience. You don’t have to dumb anything down, just speak a language your audience understands, right? So if you talk to consumers, you talk about whether the price they paid or their experience with the doctor has changed. When you talk to legislators, you talk about why policies need to be changed or strengthened to protect consumers. But legislators are megaphones for their constituents. correct? So you need to talk to them in a language they understand too, so Annalyse is absolutely right. I mean, in my job on Capitol Hill, I use acronyms and legislative language, but when you actually talk to people, you need to talk about the things that really matter to them.

tranham

Let’s talk about health care for a moment. correct? This is the business we are in. Based on all the polling data you’ve seen and all the research you’ve done, is it fair to say that health care is not a top priority for the remainder of this Congress? Best of the year, or not?

Keller

I would say funding is going to be the No. 1 issue, but I think the No. 1 issue for the American public is the economy and inflation, and I bring that up because I think it’s directly related to health care. I think health care costs are the number one issue.

Now, whether or not Congress can come together and get anything done on health care, I think that’s another question. I think Congress did a lot of important work on health care during the year. You know, it’s like so many other unfortunate things that get put on hold because of dysfunction.

tranham

Let’s translate this because I think the American people at home are saying, can we do something about health care? This is important to me. correct? So I hear and see a lot of bickering, but I’m not sure I see any resolution. Is this fair?

Keller

Yes. I think that’s absolutely fair. I do think it’s interesting the president’s conversations around health care because I think that’s a good litmus test of how much the American public is calling for conversations around health care. You hear a more populist message from Republicans.

If you watch the Republican debates, I think the candidates are very, very focused on transparency. But you know, they also don’t talk about health care the way we traditionally talk about health care as Republicans. I mean, as far as the Democrats are concerned, I’ll let Adam weigh in on this, but my, you know, my two cents is, while I think Democrats are still interested in the ultimate goal of Medicare for All, I don’t think You don’t think you’d see the same push for this from the Biden administration, you know, the conversation around Medicare that we saw during the 2020 Bernie Sanders primary. I think the Biden administration will be even more focused on sharing, defending, and promoting their record of what they’ve done for health care.

tranham

Anything you want to share?

Abrams

Of course, I mean, I think she’s right. I think the fact that the Republican Party has national Republican, I should say, Republican presidential candidates leaves something open on the issue of health care policy. It gives the Biden administration an opportunity to talk about strengthening the Affordable Care Act, finding ways to improve affordability and transparency, finding ways, whether it’s through executive action or the little bipartisanship that exists on Capitol Hill, to get some things done that actually impact The price people pay or the experience they have. I think this will be an opportunity for them. I agree. I don’t think there will be any comprehensive health care policy proposals, especially with divided government. But I think the Biden administration will continue to talk about ways to strengthen the Affordable Care Act.

tranham

OK We have to discuss the elephant and the donkey in the room, which is 2024. Will health care become a major issue between President Biden running for re-election and candidates for the Republican nomination?

Abrams

I want this. First. I think, you know, the nature of the open primaries, like we’re seeing on the Republican side, means that as these candidates take their positions, it’s going to be defined every week. I think former President Trump also defined it as the elephant in the room. I think that’s not quite the case so far, I’m not sure it’s going to be a laboratory for policy ideas, right? They will defend their constituency, their base. I think, as I said before, this gives the Biden administration and the Biden campaign an opportunity to campaign openly.

Keller

Yes, I think that’s right. Generally speaking. I think, you know, Republicans, they all quickly switched positions in the second debate when they came up against a health care issue, but you know, but I want to talk about, I want to go back to foreign policy. So, I think, you know, you can see that they, you know, there’s not a lot to talk about, and maybe that will change.

I think Nikki Haley had more to say in her response, so you know, on the surface, it doesn’t seem like one of the biggest issues, but where I think it’s going to continue to come up is cost. I know I’ve said this before, but I think the American public is really worried about the economy right now. I think it’s an important part of the economy and health care prices have gone up so high. This far exceeds other costs of inflation that Americans are currently grappling with. So, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a big lab or a lab of ideas either.

Abrams

But our research shows time and time again that our company, you know, we do a lot of research and we talk to a lot of people in focus groups, people are told how much their health care costs, they know what they’re paying. , they know what it feels like for them. So when you ask them what their top issues are, health care may not be a top issue, but cost may be an issue or two. If you ask them to pick the three most important issues, health care is usually one of the top three. It’s interesting.

tranham

We have seconds left. I like to ask this question at the end. In your mind, this is the next big thing in health. analyze?

Keller

I think it’s transparency. I think everyone is ready. Whether it’s going to the hospital, or drug pricing. I think the American public just wants to know what the costs are that they’re seeing, you know, they’re paying for.

tranham

Adam, what is the next big thing in health for you?

Abrams

So, a little bit differently, I would say artificial intelligence, I think there’s both a challenge and an opportunity in terms of how consumers interact and how companies interact with consumers, but also the potential for breakthroughs in terms of actual healthcare delivery. But there are so many unknowns about it, so many people try to take advantage of it. This will be fun.

tranham

Thank you both, I really appreciate it.

Abrams

Thanks.

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