As the results of the presidential election sent shockwaves throughout the country and upended polling projections, many in our industry were full of uncertainty. We heard questions such as “What is going to happen?” and “What will this mean for our sector?”
While the real impact will be largely dependent on President-Elect Donald Trump’s transition plan and cabinet, we do know that communicators must be prepared to navigate a new environment – regardless of the business sector.
But the outcome comes at a pivotal time for the pharmaceutical industry in particular, as drug pricing has been one of the most contested topics of any healthcare policy discussion.
What are Some Things to Expect?
Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal the ACA. At a presidential debate, Trump stated “Obamacare is a disaster. You know it. We all know it. We have to repeal it and replace it with something absolutely much less expensive.”
Days after the campaign, Trump stated that he would keep parts of the law in place including the ban on insurers from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the provision that allows young adults to be insured on their parents’ policies until age 26.
However, he could seize on the Republican control of the House and Senate to implement several measures that fundamentally change our healthcare system and the law.
Trump previously proposed policies that would allow people to purchase health plans outside of the ACA exchanges and across state lines. According to Trump, doing so would boost competition in the insurance market and lower premiums for Americans. He has also pledged to implement tax-free health savings accounts that would allow people to deduct the cost of their premiums on their personal income tax returns.
Potential negotiations: Trump broke from traditional party lines and expressed support for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. “We don’t do it,” Trump said, “Why? Because of the drug companies.” He strayed from the Republican party again and outlined support for the importation of “cheaper drugs” from overseas. In a STAT-Harvard poll conducted last year, 39 percent of Republican voters said drug re-importation would be their top choice for managing prescription medicine costs.
Affordability still at the forefront: We still face the unknown and what will actually happen in a Trump Administration for health policy. But it is clear that the issue of how to pay for healthcare – particularly with prescription medicines – will be addressed. Lawmakers who have been particularly bullish on drug pricing, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), will all return in the 115th Congress this January.
While we can’t predict what ultimately will happen, we do know that lawmakers and industry must collaborate.
Key Considerations for Health Communicators
As communicators on health issues it’s our job to anticipate and prepare for the unknown. Here are key considerations for healthcare communicators to get ahead of what’s to come:
• Protect your brand. Naming and shaming of bad players in the industry will continue and intensify, vilifying the industry. You will be faced with tough questions from internal and external stakeholders. You must have a seat at the table for pricing discussions. Be the voice of the patient and ensure they are the top consideration to protect corporate reputation. And have the tough questions prepared.
• Define your value story. Re-assert your innovation. The industry does need to work together to better define and measure the value of medicine. The advances in medicine and overall healthcare spending reduction cannot be ignored. Ensure the value is central to all communications.
• Push for business practices that put the patient first. Messaging will only go so far. In today’s environment, messages must be demonstrative of clear, sustainable business solutions or recommended fixes to the system. Allergan’s Social Contract with patients is a great example.
• Listen and be nimble. Monitoring the conversation closely and push internal processes to be nimble and responsive to the ongoing dialogue. Anticipate what could be next – it’s a turbulent environment.
• Connect communications to the people. Harness internal communications to develop fierce champions of innovation and patient centric approaches to improving healthcare. Don’t overlook the power of internal communications to mobilize employee advocates.
• Engage in a two-way dialogue. If there was ever a time to connect with stakeholders it is now. Leverage social media channels and content to educate and engage on your point-of-view and the value of your medicines.
We’ve been tracking the pricing dialogue for over a year and will continue to share insights and best practices around this key healthcare issue. One thing is certain: change is coming and communicators need to be the ones to lead the charge and be prepared for what’s next.