Oscars Night Ad Tugs On Heartstrings, Puts Hospitals Under Pressure

Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here or at the link below.


The Basics:

The CMS rule on price transparency went into effect on January 1 but hasn’t been enforced, yet. A new awareness campaign launched during the Oscars last week with the stated goal of combatting hidden prices in healthcare. The group hasn’t gained much traction but has significant (if obscure) financial backing and celebrity involvement.

Our Take:

(3-minute read)

A dash of celebrity can really bring an issue into the national spotlight.

Hollywood tried to do just that last week when they broadcast a $2 million, 30-second PSA on healthcare pricing during the Oscars. The goal was to raise visibility about consumers’ rights to see hospital prices before they receive care.

The commercial’s talent? Oscar-winner and activist Susan Sarandon herself along with fellow A-lister Cynthia Erivo. To rally the effort, the Power to the Patients campaign is encouraging people to display wall art and murals invoking the cause and designed by celebrity artist Shepard Fairey. Check out cool examples on their website.

So. Did it work?

TBD.

Nothing’s gone viral yet: As of Saturday, the ad had only generated a meager haul of followers with 869 on YouTube, 813 on Instagram, 320 on Facebook and 166 on Twitter.

But providers, dismiss this at your own peril – especially if you’re one of the many that aren’t compliant with the currently-unenforced price transparency rule.

For those hoping this will just go away, you’ve got a few things going for you.

  1. The problem is complex.
  2. It hasn’t generated much coverage (finding a good link for the top of this note wasn’t easy and we ended up using their own press release).
  3. While we haven’t done any man-on-the street interviews, we’re guessing a raised fist – as depicted in the Power to the Patients iconography – isn’t what most people will associate with easy-to-navigate chargemasters.
  4. The ad and the website merely point to a problem without really explaining it or offering solutions.

But – and it’s a big but – Power to the Patients’ star-studded roster could be just the catalyst to fire up Americans about their power to bring healthcare to the consumer-friendly levels virtually every other industry offers. Already, savvy pundits are talking, including healthcare economist and blogger Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (HealthPopuli) who gave the organization a shoutout this week. And President Biden has indicated that he’s not pulling the plug on price transparency.

Providers certainly are more accustomed to insurance companies, pharma and medical devices being grilled as secretive drivers of cost. That won’t last long if this issue isn’t reconciled.

While we’re not exactly Power to the Patient insiders, we figure they aim to: induce providers to be compliant with price transparency; expose those charging higher rates and pressure CMS to enforce its own rule.

Which brings us to the advice portion – after all, that’s what we do at Jarrard Inc. So here goes:

It’s doesn’t matter if the campaign is clunky. Or that it uses splashy but vague tactics like murals and posters. Or that it hasn’t created a firestorm – yet. What matters is that the mission of healthcare providers is to deliver better, more equitable and accessible care to the communities they serve. We understand the challenges and the reasons given to not comply today. But wherever you are right now…

  • Think about the experience you’re providing to your patients. Decide whether that experience matches up with your mission, including on the rev cycle side of things.
  • Meet with your team to determine how far away you are from posting your prices and what you need operationally to make that happen.
  • Ask your community. Check in with your patients to learn what they want and how they’d like to approach things like scheduling, payment and – of course – cost estimates.
  • Be ready to explain why you’re taking the approach to price transparency that you are. If you’re not complying and haven’t been asked about it, consider Power to the Patients as notice served that you will be. If you are compliant, be ready to talk about how the tools work and be willing to acknowledge any gaps that may exist between checking the regulatory boxes and giving patients a seamless experience.

It’s time to step up your game. Otherwise, it may be your organization’s name in lights.

Jarrard Inc.
ourthinking@jarrardinc.com