No Coverage Gap* — A Study in Creative Messaging

It’s 351,993 words, and over 2,000 pages.  It affects over 300 million people and has been the center of controversy for decades.  It’s H.R.3962 - Affordable Health Care for America Act, or the Health Care Bill that is now being debated in the Senate.   So, 100 Senators will argue the pros and cons of this bill before it reaches the President to be made into law.  So how difficult can it be?  Well it’s over 2,000 pages written in legal jargon that requires a room full of lawyers along with lawmakers.  But the more challenging part will be the communication and implementation of the new law if it ever passes.

But other laws have managed to develop very successful communication and messaging campaigns to the general public.  Take for example a law in Illinois that also exists in 48 other states. In Illinois, it didn’t require 2,000 pages but it did require 2 pages in the short form.  The Illinois Compiled Statute 625 ILCS 5/12-603.1 (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 12-603.1) states “Driver and passenger required to use safety belts, exceptions and penalty.” In the next two pages it goes on to explain the exceptions related to children under 8, drivers under age 18 with passengers over age 19, and those with traffic tickets in the last 6 months, etc.  A little confusing, but I’m sure required to get the bill passed in the state senate. And there are probably different regulations and language in this same law in all 49 states with seat belt laws.  In case you’re wondering, New Hampshire is the only state that does not have a mandatory seat belt law for adults.

But even with variations in the laws, “Click It or Ticket” became a national campaign to remind drivers of the mandatory seat belt laws across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, “America’s Seat Belt Campaign, Click It or Ticket (CIOT), is the most successful seat belt enforcement campaign ever, helping create the highest national seat belt usage rate of 83 percent. Coast to coast, day or night, the message is simple - Click It or Ticket.”

What I like about marketing communications is that after all the research, market segmentation and targeting it all comes down to the message.  In this case Click It or Ticket is direct, actionable with consequences, and it’s measurable.

In reviewing the 2,000 pages of the healthcare bill, I just kept wondering how anybody in the general public, without a law degree, would ever be able to understand any of this bill. I decided to focus on an area that would have to be explained to seniors, Medicare Part D.  When Medicare Part D launched several years ago, the portion of payment that was not covered by insurance was termed “the donut hole,” which changed over time (to be more descriptive) to “the coverage gap.”  Seems to make sense, it’s essentially a gap in healthcare coverage where the patient is responsible for the full payment of the drug cost.  In the healthcare bill now being reviewed in the senate, Division B, Subtitle E, Section 1181 states “Elimination of coverage gap.”  Seems straightforward, until you actually get to this section and in the next 9 pages it begins to explain how this will be accomplished financially. 

Good luck with a catchy campaign slogan that seniors will understand if you have to include all those details.  The best campaign seems to be “No Coverage Gap” (with a big asterisk at the end).  And this is just 9 pages of the 2,000 page bill. 

Exciting times for healthcare marketing communications professionals!


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