Communications Tips to Use with Skeptical Audiences


A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that a majority of the public now believes that government “should do more to solve problems,” with the survey finding a particularly pronounced shift among Independents. This overall warming to a more active government follows two years of the public favoring a less-active government.

We know that Independents, and other persuadable skeptical audiences, can be engaged and moved in support of the health law. Using the communications strategies below, now is a good time to reach out to these groups as they will be (based on recent polls) more open to what you have to say.

NOTE: While most skeptical people say they are receiving good healthcare and they have good doctors, they remain receptive to elements of the law if they believe it:

  • Will give them greater control
  • Will provide more protections
  • Will improve their care
  • Will focus more on prevention which the public believes will help bring premiums and their health costs down

Communications Strategies

1. Lead with a statement that the public believes to be true, hits on one of the points listed in the box above, and allows them to stay open-minded. Examples:

  • “President Obama has said he will work with anyone to improve the law and fix what needs fixing. What we can’t afford to do is take away our new benefits and protections. We’ve got to move forward and not return to the days when the insurance industry set all the rules.” NOTE: It is a better frame to focus on what benefits/protection people will lose—getting folks invested in what they have now because of the law, rather than just listing the benefits of the law.
  • “The law invests in preventive care and services such as free mammograms and colonoscopies—that means we can all begin to take better care of our health and begin to see our health costs go down.”
  • “The law’s new Health Insurance Marketplace brings real competition and greater transparency to the insurance industry, ingredients that work to bring down consumer costs while safeguarding our care.”

2. Have an appropriate ‘messenger’ tell a story that illustrates a how a benefit of the law is helping them. Use a benefit persuadable/skeptical audiences most value including:

  • Pre-existing condition exclusions
  • More focus on preventative care and services
  • Help for small businesses
  • Cracks down on waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare (especially for senior audience)

3. Highlight the part(s) of the law that specifically addresses and remedies the issue(s) in this story.

4. End with a comment like: “What we can’t afford to do is take away these benefits and return to the days when insurance companies . . . . . (depends on what benefit you illustrated). If we want to relieve the burden of rising health care costs on our families, businesses, and government, than we need to move forward not backward.”

Elevator Language—with limited time choose one based on the person you are speaking to:

  • The law takes control of our health care away from insurance companies and puts it where it belongs – in our hands and the hands of our doctor. That means insurance companies can no longer deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition or drop coverage due to an illness.
  • The law aggressively cracks down on waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare which will save seniors and all taxpayers money while strengthening Medicare.
  • The law requires members of Congress to get their health care form the same insurance marketplace as millions of Americans and small businesses.
  • The law eliminates co-pays for annual check-ups and expands preventive care, which will help lower costs in the long run and allow people to take better care of their health.
  • The law makes healthcare more affordable for small businesses by allowing them to band together to get the same rates that bigger companies get.
  • The law creates state health insurance marketplaces which will generate greater competition, accountability, and transparency in the insurance industry so premiums will come down.

Talking Points (when pushed on government role)

  • “The law is implemented locally. We have leadership at the local level and community members controlling the implementation. We can have insurance oversight and consumer protections, local competitive marketplaces, and better preventive care.”
  • “With the new law we have a watchdog that will make sure insurance companies comply with tough standards, follow the rules, and take appropriate action when necessary.”