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Qorvis MSL Makes Immediate Impact on Health Care Debate Launches "Medicaid is US" Campaign

Fri, 06/30/2017

By Chuck Alston , Senior Vice President, Director of Public Affairs, Qorvis MSL

In the United States, there is no more important legislative issue at this moment than health care. No issue is as immediate, as contentious, or as consequential.

And Qorvis MSL is right in the middle of it.

Ten days ago, Qorvis MSL was hired by the Association of Community Affiliated Plans , a trade association representing Medicaid insurance plans with more than 20 million enrollees in 29 states. As the first group of insurers to weigh in publicly on this contentious debate, ACAP wanted to make an immediate impact. They wanted a compelling message that would stand out in a crowded media landscape, and a Red-state strategy.

QMSL sprang into action. We began with a new approach to the issue – using an economic message, not a health care message, to target Trump voters in key states with Republican Senators. Our message focuses on the economic benefits of Medicaid and the essential support it provides for low-income working Americans. Medicaid allows workers to manage their chronic illnesses so they can stay on the job. Medicaid covers drug rehabilitation and nursing home care for millions of Americans, allowing their loved ones the peace of mind to keep working, instead of serving as caretakers. We deliberately chose to play against the stereotype that Medicaid is welfare, because 60 percent of people with Medicaid work, and 80 percent of the people covered by the contentious Medicaid expansion work. This creates a conversation more likely to engage conservative opponents.

Working on a tight budget and against a hard deadline, the creative team turned the campaign theme into print, digital and broadcast executions in two days, with only stock footage, voiceover and superscript to drive the visuals and messaging. In less than a week, the first of more than 5,500 broadcast spots started airing in six states and the District of Columbia as part of a seven-figure digital and broadcast buy. Digital advertising began by testing more than 181 variations of Facebook advertisements aimed at specific audience segments, all driving traffic to the website where they can contact their elected officials via email, Facebook or Twitter.

The unique aging proved compelling to health care reporters – leading to national coverage by Bloomberg and Associated Press. Washington Beltway media were buzzing with multiple stories in Politico, National Journal, Morning Consult and The Hill. And the local impact of our campaign was covered by local media in West Virginia, Ohio, and Nevada. This just two days in.

As the Senate unexpectedly postponed a vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act , Senators are now headed back to their home states for the 4th of July recess. When they get home, our campaign will be waiting for them — with ads running into mid-July. The immediate success of the strategy has persuaded ACAP to increase the budget and extend the length of the campaign. It grew from a $250,000 probe into a $1 million campaign in less than four days, as ACAP members and preferred vendors became energized by the creativity and ambitions of the campaign. ACAP feels it is only getting started.

The QMSL team is led by public affairs veterans Chuck Alston and Wyeth Ruthven , with the creative talents of Cassie Elliott and Marcos Ballestero , broadcast and digital targeting by Andrew Rugg and Jonathan Ewing , and skilled media relations led by Christian Hertenstein .



Chuck Alston is a Senior Vice President and Director of Public Affairs at Qorvis MSL, a global public relations firm.

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