High Stakes

With Healthcare a Key Issue, Plan Now for 2016 Campaign

In one year, we’ll have a new president, and potentially 12 new governors, 35 new U.S. senators, new members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 86 new state legislatures around the country, all with opinions on healthcare.

Republican presidential candidates from Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio to Donald Trump say they want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Hillary Clinton has changes in mind, too — adjustments to how ACA works. Gubernatorial candidates – on both sides – and congressional candidates are pledging changes to healthcare policies.

In short, the politics and policy of healthcare in the United States continue to be hot, and it’s safe to say (at least some) things will change after the 2016 election cycle. Whether you’re a large healthcare system, a regional provider or community hospital, it’s wise to get involved in the process, particularly with candidates at the congressional and state levels.

For hospitals, the focus should be on building relationships and educating candidates, with an overarching goal of establishing your organization as one of, if not the “go-to resource” for candidates on healthcare. If successful, you’ll position your organization to work with the candidate, once elected, on public policies that will drive healthcare into the future.

A second – and important – focus should be on educating stakeholders during the political process so they can make informed decisions when they go into the voting booth. This education should extend to your employees, physicians, volunteers, board members, donors and community members.

There are many ways a local hospital or health system can be an important part of the conversation. And putting together an election engagement plan now to guide your organization through the next 12 months will help ensure you have a strategic and coherent effort that achieves your organization’s goals.

Some examples of how hospitals can get involved during the election include:

  • Invite candidates to visit your facilities for issue briefings, coupling it with a facilities tour. Let them know what you do, the vital role your organization plays as a partner to the community, and what healthcare issues are important to your organization and the people you serve.
  • Conduct candidate forums. Invite all of the candidates and stakeholders. This is particularly powerful when done in conjunction with other civic groups in your community.
  • Organize candidate surveys. Send questions to all candidates in your local and state races and then publish responses in your newsletter or in a special education pamphlet. Push the information to your employees and your networks.
  • Hold a voter registration drive.

Participation in the political process is permissible by all, but not-for-profit hospitals must remember to be sensitive to the rules regarding 501(c)(3) organization engagement in voter education activities and with candidates. The rules are clear – it’s just important to review and adhere to them while building your engagement plan.

An election year is an opportune time to build relationships with key elected officials and to offer your organization’s perspective. Healthcare is on the agenda, and the stakes are going to be high in 2016. If you haven’t already, your organization should start mapping out its election year activities today.


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