A New Strategy for Selling Health Care

TIME – By Kate Pickert

By now, most of us can agree that Democrats have largely failed to use health care reform as a political boost. The new law remains unpopular with half or more of the U.S. population and it will be one of several critical issues in the upcoming mid-term elections, particularly in districts where freshman, Blue Dog or vulnerable Democrats voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The law did pass, by the way. Apparently, a lot of voters don’t know this. Ben Smith of Politico got word of what was presented today on a conference call organized by FamiliesUSA, a powerful and well-funded grassroots group that advocated for reform and will provide support for messaging about the law as its implemented. A PowerPoint presentation discussed on the call led Smith to rightly note that a messaging shift on health reform is underway.

The PowerPoint slides were put together by a group called the Herndon Alliance, which does opinion research and counts as “partners” high-profile pro-reform groups like SEIU, AARP and the Center for American Progress. A spokesman for FamiliesUSA did not want to comment on the content of the presentation – which amounts to a back-stage pass to pro-reform messaging strategy – and said FamiliesUSA was not involved in assembling the presentation, merely that FamiliesUSA “provided Herndon the platform to present this information.”

In the presentation, which can be found on the Herndon Alliance web site, pro-reform advocates are advised to “avoid overheated rhetoric,” keep it simple and talk about the law as something that can be improved upon. It also acknowledges what now seems obvious: “Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to be moving voters’ opinion about the law.”

Surprisingly, the presentation says that voters need to be reminded that the health reform bill actually passed the Congress and is now law. It says many “non-college educated women” and Latinos, in particular, don’t realize this. The really interesting material, however, can be found in a much longer Herndon document, also available online…

The longer version of the material includes lot more fascinating information, like that AARP has lost a lot of credibility as a trusted source, bashing insurance companies doesn’t really work anymore and elderly men are more skeptical of reform than elderly women…

Herndon Alliance’s new research results are in.

It’s a tough public opinion climate. But our newest reserach shows people can be moved from skepticism of reforms and support for repeal of the law to a position of resisting repeal and being open to reforms.

Check out a summary of our focus group research by Lake Research Partners, an overview of our Web polling research by Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner Research, and some high-level take-aways combining these findings, which we’ll be presenting in various forums in the coming weeks.

These and other materials are available in the “Resources” section of our Web site. While you’re there, check under “What’s New” for our most current information. You don’t have to be a partner to view our materials.

Why we hope you’ll join us

Together we can make high quality choices and affordable, accessible health care for all a reality.

How? By listening to what the American public really wants. We need to be trained and become skilled at engaging in the health dialogue where the public is in their thinking, not where we wish they were. Then we need to help the public expand their thinking on these issues through values-based messaging rather than shutting them down with fear or overly detailed policy discussions.

Herndon Alliance partners are doing just that.

We hope you’ll join us as we fix America’s health care system – together.

History of Herndon Alliance

In 2005 Herndon Alliance was established as a coalition of national and state based advocacy, labor, faith, provider, and business groups. The common vision was to reframe the healthcare reform discussion from one that was policy driven to one that is ‘values-based’ and would help a larger portion of the population understand how health care reform could improve affordability and security in their own health care coverage. Our goal was to increase the base of support for healthcare reform leading to quality and affordable health care for all.

What we learned was that 80% of polled Americans favored major healthcare reform. We also learned that this percentage radically dropped to below 30% when a specific policy was introduced. And finally, we learned that the vast majority of the voting population was already insured.

What we needed to hear was what the public wanted.

Two questions needed answering. How could we frame the issue of reform and access to health care to help those with insurance coverage understand that reform was critical for them? And, how could we move the population to create a majority of voters who, even when a policy was introduced, continued to favor healthcare reform?

In 2006 and 2007 we conducted research to answer both of these questions. We found that it was indeed possible to show those with insurance how important reform was for them, and that it was possible to move people toward supporting a specific policy for reform, if we framed the issues in specific ways that resonated with the public.

Herndon Alliance worked to make these finding public on state and national levels. We collaborated with our partner organizations to provide briefings to the staff members of presidential and congressional campaigns, coordinated with pro-reform organizations like AARP, SEIU, and many others, and trained advocates in messaging, always with the goal of ensuring that as many people as possible were talking about healthcare reform — together.

On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, guaranteeing security and stability for the insured and access for 32 million uninsured Americans for the first time in our nation’s history. This would not have occurred were it not for the tireless efforts by tens of thousands of advocates and millions of ordinary Americans, speaking together in a unified voice for reform.

Our work is far from over. Health care reform must now be properly implemented, and improvements must be made. If we are to preserve the gains made by the law and build on this foundation, the American public must understand what the law means for them. We must overcome fear and mistrust, and we must once again use our collective voice to connect with the public on the values we share as Americans.

Herndon Alliance Board of Directors

Carol Regan, PHI/Health Care for Health Care Workers – President of Board

Jennifer Ng’andu, National Council of LaRaza – Vice-President of Board

Philippe Villers, Families USA – Secretary and Treasurer of Board

Rob Restuccia, Community Catalyst – Board Member

Anthony Wright, Health Access California – Board Member


Bob Crittenden – Executive Director

Gwen Credit – Director of Operations

Sherry Prowda – Director of Communications

Francesca Holme – Project Director

Peter Van Vranke – National Outreach Consultant

Herndon Alliance Partners




Alliance to Defend Health Care

Alzheimers Association

American Association of People with disabilities

American Cancer Society

American Diabetes Association

American Heart Association

American Medical Student Association

American Medical Women’s Association

American Nurses Association

America’s Agenda: Health Care For All

Asian American Justice Center

Avalere Health

Balanced Choice Health Care, Inc.

Beyond the Divide

Bi-partisan Policy Committee

Braid-Forbes Health Research

Brandeis University

Brookings Institute

Campaign for America’s Future

Campaign for Better Health Care

Catholic Healthcare West

Center for American Progress

Center for Community Change

Center for the Advancement of Health

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities

Champaign County Health Care Consumers

Children’s Defense Fund

Citizen Action of New York

Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Commonwealth Fund

Communications Workers of America

Community Catalyst

Community Health Advocacy Partnership

Community Health Action Information Network (Florida CHAIN)

Community Partners

Community Service Society

Comunidades Unidas

Congress of California

Consumers for Affordable Health Care

Consumers Union

Dental Health Foundation

Democracy for America

Ecu-Health Care

Emory University

Families USA

Faithful Reform in Health Care

First Focus

Florida CHAIN

GRO-Grass Roots Organizing

Glover Park Group

Harvard University


Health Access California

Health Action New Mexico

Healthcare for All

Health Care for Health Care Workers

Health Management Associates

Health Policy Alternatives

Health Policy Institute-Georgetown

Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign

Inova Fairfax Hospital Cancer Center

Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Institute of Medicine

Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health (SALSA)

Intermountain Health Care


Iowa for Health Care – SEIU

Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis

Jewish Council on Public Affairs

Jobs with Justice

Kansas Health Consumer Coalition

Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio LLC

Linguistica International

Maine People’s Alliance

Maine State Senate

Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative

Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign

MDI Imported Car Service, Inc.

Medicare Rights Cente

Midwest States Center

Minnesota Senior Federation

Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition


NACHRI-Natl Assoc of Children Hospitals

National Association of Community Health Centers

National Association of CP Midwives

National Coalition on Health Care

National Council of La Raza

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative & National Health Law Program

National Physicians Alliance

National Women’s Law Center

New America Foundation

New Jersey Citizen Action

Northeast Action

Northwest Federation of Community Organizations

Northwest Health Law Advocates

Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute

Partners HealthCare

Partnership for Prevention

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus

Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

PHI – Health Care for Health Care Workers Campaign

Physicians for Human Rights

PICO National Network

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

PPI’s Health priorities Project

Prescription Policy Choices

Princeton University

Progressive Majority

Progressive States Network

Progressive Strategies

Professional Healthcare Institute’s Health Care for Health Care Workers

Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care

Rand Corp

Raven Analytics



Research Committee for Economic Development


Right On Time

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

SEIU, Americans for Health Care

Small Business for Affordable Healthcare

Small Business Majority

TakeAction Minnesota

Tennessee Health Care Campaign

Tennessee Justice Center

The Access Project

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

The Hamilton Project

The Human Rights Implementation Project

The Mayo Clinic

The Moran Company

The National Academy for State Health Policy

The National Coalition on Health Care

The Opportunity Agenda

The pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH)

Tobacco Free Kids

UFCW-United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union

United Methodist Church/General Board of Church and Society

Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN)

University of Michigan

Universal Health Care Action Network – Ohio

Uplift International


Utah Health Policy Project

Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health

Vermont Public Interest Research Group

Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

Volunteer Health Advocate


West Virginians for Affordable Health Care

Working For Health Coalition

Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP

Individual Partners

Gary Benjamin

John Carr

Lakshmi Sambhavi Cheemala

James Christian

Harold Cohen

Gwen Credit

Judith Darnell

Meredith Dodson

Melody Hart

Helen Haskell

Anne Joseph

Karen Metcaff

Alta Price

Don Schroeder

Paul Severance

Peter Wyckoff