NBTH What’s Next in Health Care Policy: Adam Abrams and Annalyse

Episode Transcript:

Adam Abrams

I use acronyms and legislative language in my work on Capitol Hill, but when you’re really talking to people, you have to talk to what’s really important to them.

Annalyse Keller

I think it’s transparency. I think everybody is really prepared, whether it’s a trip to the hospital, you know, drug pricing. I think the American public just wants to know what costs they say they will pay.

Robert Traynham

Annalyse and Adam, welcome to this wonderful podcast of ours. I love to start with just, frankly, an icebreaker. Do you know what you are doing? This city, here we are in Washington DC, this city is pretty tight. Lots of type A personalities. You see a lot of people jogging with their cell phones. You see a lot of people at football games, obviously on their smart devices because they are constantly connected. But what do you do when no one else is looking? What do you do on Saturday or Sunday just to relax? Annalyse, I’ll start with you.

Keller

So I really want to escape from Washington and the whole world and read science fiction. So I recently started the Red Rising series, which I’m way too late to play, but it’s a post-apocalyptic planetary challenge. I really want to zoom out…

Traynham

Wow. I mean, you… Cool, like really into another world!

Abrams

For me I’m chasing my four year old so we live on Capitol Hill here in Washington you can find us at Eastern Market running around but yeah wherever he’s going on a bike. I’m usually hot on his tail trying to keep up.

Traynham

I understand that you have your priorities straight. So you work for Seven Letter and for the people or people who see fit, which is a public affairs firm here in Washington DC. . Tell us about your roles in Seven Letters. What exactly do you do? Annalyse?

Keller

So you’re absolutely right. It’s a PR company. We help associations like yours, but also corporate customers. We have industries all over the place that we help, and we primarily help them with communications here in Washington, DC. So we are not necessarily a consumer-oriented public affairs company. But we are talking to the opinion elite. We’re talking to key stakeholders here in Washington. We talk to legislators, we talk to policy makers, and we help shape the narratives that best resonate with those policy makers on a given issue.

Traynham

Adam?

Abrams

Yes, clients come to us most often when they have a challenge or an opportunity, especially when they need to communicate to niche audiences, niche audiences, influential audiences, and we have expertise in finding them, building audiences and communicating. and reach them. So, whether it’s healthcare stakeholders or multiple industries, we find ways to develop, build and communicate important messages.

Traynham

You know, one of the things that I always find challenging, but frankly also creatively interesting, and that is: how do you deal with really complex domestic political issues like health care, which is very important for obvious reasons, and I don’t ever want to use the word stupid it’s offensive, but how do you make it digestible or consumable for our parents or grandparents to understand? Do you also find that challenge or excitement difficult?

Keller

Yes, I think that’s right. I mean, many industries can stick to their own acronyms. And they can be really simple steps. I mean you say the same things. You only use language familiar to people. You know, you kind of have to get your message across to your audience. And if you want an audience, you know, if your audience is an American audience, you have to understand that they’re not going to understand the same terminology that we often use here.

Abrams

Yeah. You said it, Annalyse said it too, you both talked about the audience. You don’t need to dumb anything down, you’re speaking in a language that the audience can understand, right? So if you’re talking to consumers, you’re talking about how the price they pay or their experience with the doctor changes or doesn’t change. When you talk to lawmakers, you talk about why policies need to be changed or strengthened to protect consumers. But lawmakers are sort of megaphones for their constituents. Right? So you have to speak to them in a language that they understand too, so Annalyse is absolutely right. I mean, I use acronyms and legislative language in my work on Capitol Hill, but when you’re really talking to people, you have to talk to what’s really important to them.

Traynham

Let’s talk about healthcare for a moment. Right? This is our business. Based on all the polling data you’ve seen and the research you’ve done, it’s fair to say that health care issues are not a top priority for this Congress. a year or not?

Keller

I would say funding is going to be the main issue, but I think the most important issues for the American public are the economy and inflation, and I bring that up because I think it’s directly related to health care. And I think the cost of health care is the main issue.

Now, is Congress somehow going to be able to pull it together and get anything done on health care, you know, I think that’s another question. And I think a lot of important work has been done in Congress on health care over the course of the year. You know, it’s just like many other things and unfortunate that fall under the dysfunctional side.

Traynham

Let’s turn this around because I think the American people at home are saying, Can we get something done for health care? This is important to me. Right? So I hear and see a lot of arguing, but I’m not sure I see any solutions. Is that fair?

Keller

Yeah. I think that’s perfectly fair. I think it’s been interesting to watch the president’s debate on health care because I think it’s a good litmus test of how much the American public wants to talk about health care. You will hear a more populist message from the Republicans.

If you watch the Republican debates, I think the candidates are very, very focused on transparency. But they’re also not talking about health care the way we’ve traditionally seen Republicans talk about it. I mean, and as far as the Democrats go, I’ll let Adam jump in on this, but my, you know, my two cents is that while I think the Democrats are still interested in the ultimate goal of Medicare for all, I don’t think you’re going to see the Biden administration push that at the same time, you know, there’s not going to be the same debate about Medicare that we saw in 2020 when we had the Bernie Sanders primary. I think the Biden administration will focus more on sharing, advocating, and publicizing their information about the things they have been able to do for health care.

Traynham

Want to share something?

Abrams

Sure, I mean I think he’s right. I think the fact that the Republicans have national Republicans, I should say, the Republican presidential candidates have left the field wide open on health care policy. It gives the Biden administration an opportunity to talk about strengthening the ACA, to find ways to increase affordability and transparency, to find ways, either through executive action or those few glimmers of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, to get a couple of things done. a line that really affects the price people pay or the experience they have. And I think that’s an opportunity for them. I agree. I don’t think the health care policy proposal is going to be, especially with a divided government. But I believe the Biden administration will continue to discuss ways to strengthen the ACA.

Traynham

Clear. We have to talk about the elephant and the donkey in the room, and it’s 2024. Will health care become the dominant issue between President Biden and the Republican nominee?

Abrams

I’ll take this. First. I think, you know, the nature of an open primary, as we’re seeing on the Republican side, means that it’s going to be defined week by week as those candidates take their positions. And I think former President Trump also defines that as the big elephant in the room there. And I think it’s not quite that far, and I’m not sure it’s exactly a laboratory of political ideas, is it? They come to defend their constituency, their base. And I think it gives, as I said before, the opportunity for the Biden administration and the Biden campaign to get on the record.

Keller

Yes, I think that’s right. Generally speaking. I think, you know, the Republicans, they all pivoted quickly in the second debate when they got one health care issue, as they were, but you know, but I want to talk, I want to go back to foreign policy. So I think you could kind of see that they don’t have much to talk about and maybe that will change.

I think Nikki Haley had a little bit more to say in her response, so you know, it doesn’t seem like it’s one of the biggest issues, but I think it will continue to come up in costs. . And I know I’ve said it before, but I think the American people are really worried about the economy right now. And I think that’s a big part of the economy and just the fact that health care prices have gotten so high. That’s far greater than the other inflationary costs Americans are grappling with right now. So I don’t see it as a big laboratory or a laboratory of ideas either, unfortunately.

Abrams

But our research shows time and time again that in our company, we do a lot of survey research, we talk to a lot of people in focus groups, and people get information about their health care costs and they know what they’re paying. they know how it makes them feel. And when you ask them what their number one concern is, health care might not be number one, but cost is probably number one or two. And if you ask them to pick three main things, healthcare is usually one of the top three. So that’s interesting.

Traynham

We have a few seconds left. I love asking this question at the end. And it is: the next big thing in health, according to you. Annalyse?

Keller

I think transparency. I think everyone is really ready. Whether it’s a trip to the hospital, drug pricing. I think the American people just want to know what they are seeing in the costs they are paying the bill for.

Traynham

Adam, the next big thing in your health?

Abrams

So go a little differently. I say artificial intelligence. In my opinion, both challenges and opportunities in the interaction of consumers and in the interaction of companies with consumers, but also the potential for breakthroughs in the actual delivery of healthcare. But there is so much unknown out there, so many people are trying to take advantage of it. It will be interesting.

Traynham

Thank you both, I really appreciate it.

Abrams

Thank you.

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