SPECIAL TO NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
Trying to get a very busy and cash-challenged American public to focus on changing the bureaucratic healthcare system is certainly not easy, especially during the holiday season. However the hidden out of pocket costs when a person has to go out of their network even for simple procedures can be devastating to families and individuals who have no idea of the charges that they are incurring.
It is an issue that many state legislatures are trying to come to grips with. One state with out of control costs is New Jersey and several health care stakeholders have announced a new coalition to advocate for legislation giving consumers more information to navigate the health care marketplace. The members of new coalition, NJ Healthcare Users for Reform and Transparency, or NJHURT, include representatives of health insurers, labor, consumers and public policy group.
The coalition said it has four goals:
Increase transparency. Require hospitals and physicians to provide, for a significant number of the most commonly performed procedures, information about the fees they charge and make that information available in a user-friendly, online format.
Reduce surprises. Hospitals should require physicians practicing at their facility to participate in the same insurance networks they do.
Create a fair, simple arbitration process to resolve billing disputes. Each side submits a “best and final” offer; the arbitrator selects one within 30 days, and the loser pays the costs of the arbitration.
Establish a reasonable fee schedule. This would cover out-of-network ER services based on actual costs.
How do they aim to enlist the public to become aware and support the cause? One way that is a little unusual is by using athletes. NJHURT has teamed up with several athletes on both ends of the state, The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, to come up with fun and efficient viral campaigns to show the problem as it exists and bring it to light in the minds of the public, many of whom may be more focused on the gridiron than on their bills every Sunday. The coalition also got a little lucky when one of their spokespeople. New York Giants lineman Geoff Schwartz, actually ended up on the injured list for Big Blue as the campaign kicked off. Now while Schwartz health costs will be covered under the NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, he can clearly see the problem with the public in looking at the bills for Emergency Room and Doctors visits that are out of network. The video they created is fun and informative and has a stickiness that can get some play, much more than a simple call to action promotion with a talking head (although there will be plenty of those type of promotions as well).
The coalition also targeted players for inclusion rather than brands or teams for now, which keeps their cost down and can still get them a bang that they need.
As big Pharma continues to spend large dollars on sport in general for promotion, this campaign to keep costs down us a smart one for grassroots activation, and is certainly one that can be replicated in regions throughout the country where costs of healthcare are skyrocketing and athletes are an excellent entry point for a call to action.
Nice score NJ Hurt, keep fighting the good fight.
*** *** ***
Joe Favorito has almost 30 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. He has been head of communications for the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, the USTA and other entities and now runs a successful strategic communications and marketing consultancy based in New Jersey and Manhattan. He is also an author and instructor at Columbia University. You can find out more at joefavorito.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@JoeFav).