Now the Real Work Begins: Supreme Court Upholds Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act

Photo of doctor and patient by Anoto AB on flickr

Today is a momentous occasion. The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act means we will continue on the journey to make the greatest changes to our health care system since the implementation of the national Medicare plan in 1965. In a mere 18 months, a majority of the reforms called for in the two 2,800 page bills will begin to take effect. From insurance plans to health care providers to businesses and consumers—everyone will be affected by this legislation.  From a communications standpoint, it can only be summed up as, “We’re going to have a lot of explaining to do”.

Here are just a few of the communication challenges ahead:

The Affordable Care Act calls for the formation of health care Exchanges where under-and uninsured consumers can directly purchase their own health plans. In other words, health care will truly become a retail business. Consumers will need to become much more educated about health care insurance and choosing the right plans. Exchanges will operate much like E-Insurance sites, devoid of any brand marketing.  From a marketing standpoint, this means that health plans will need to make sure their brand has awareness and is firmly established in the minds of their future members. The winners will be those who do the best of job of both teaching consumers and convincing them that they have the resources to help them stay well.

Hospitals/Health Systems and Physicians are expected to work together as never before. Under the new “pay for performance” guidelines, they will be compensated based on their ability to treat patients as effectively and efficiently as possible. This will require them to provide more information about quality standards and clinical care outcomes. With this focus on quality and evidence-driven data, health care providers will be challenged to develop user-friendly tools and materials to explain their “retail” advantages to consumers.

Large employers are particularly concerned about health care reform since it creates 132,000 new regulations, some of which will affect who they cover, what type of plans they offer and what they pay. Agents and health plans will need to explain the legislative implications to employers, and help them make decisions about the coverage they should offer. Employers, in turn, will need to communicate these complex changes to their employees and guide them through the changes.

Despite the complexity of health care reform, it represents a wonderful opportunity to be a guide and resource for your audiences. If you can do a good job of helping make the complex more understandable and helping them understand how to make good decisions they will thank you for it and earn their loyalty.

Photo Credit to Flickr’s Anoto AB

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