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January 10, 2023
Sustainable Health Care Costs Peterson-Milbank Program for Sustainable Health Care Costs
Mar 13, 2023
Jan 10, 2023
Oct 31, 2022
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Effective stakeholder engagement and communications are critical to the cost growth target’s success. The factors driving health care cost growth are complex, and the impact of the target on affordability will occur over the long term, so explaining the benefits and progress of the target program requires clear and ongoing communications.
Likewise, earning and maintaining stakeholder buy-in amid inevitable changes in state administrations, the economy, and other circumstances demands consistent engagement. This section describes key communication activities that states need to undertake to gain and maintain momentum to implement cost growth targets.
Well before obtaining any authority to establish the program, state leaders need to introduce members of the health care community to the concept of cost growth targets and reasons to implement one. In doing so, states need to make the case that rising health care costs harm governments, employers, and families and clearly delineate how targets can help address this issue. The following are key talking points that states could use to define the problem and make the case for a cost growth target:
States need to engage stakeholders regularly to educate them, increase buy-in, and garner support. States must conduct outreach with each key stakeholder group: state legislators, employers, health providers, payers, journalists, consumer advocates, and the public. Engagement of organized labor and local funders may also be important. Three goals for stakeholder engagement are:
Throughout the initiative, states should aim to build a culture of accountability in which all stakeholders are committed to transparency in health care costs and holding down cost growth. However, as states move further along in their implementation, the program priorities, and consequently the specific goals for stakeholder communication, will evolve. In the early stages, most of the communication should focus on obtaining buy-in and describing how targets can help advance affordability. As the initiative matures, stakeholder engagement should move toward actions the state and its partnering stakeholders can take to mitigate cost growth. States should also routinely assess any changes in the environment or new opportunities that may require a shift in focus and revision of goals for stakeholder engagement.
To prioritize communications in the implementation process, a dedicated member of the target program team should work regularly with communications staff, if available, to ensure the state conveys the value and progress of the program in a consistent and understandable way. In the absence of dedicated communications staff, the state lead should assign staff communications responsibilities, such as working with appropriate department staff on a website or web page and creating fact sheets or Q&A documents based on examples provided in the resources section below.
States should develop a communications plan as a roadmap for informing and engaging stakeholders. The communications plan should detail:
Source: Adapted from the FrameWorks Institute.
Continued stakeholder engagement is necessary to maintain momentum and sustain the program. In addition to obtaining stakeholder input on the policy development, states should conduct regular outreach that includes strategic messaging about what is driving health care cost growth. Opportunities to communicate about the program include:
Approaches to ongoing communication should include:
At each opportunity, states should highlight the problem of health care affordability and describe what it means for families, employers, and the state. States should also consider building a coalition of supporters who can engage public officials, and develop talking points that can be used to discuss issues publicly or privately.
In addition, because meaningful action to address drivers of cost growth is the most challenging part of a target program, the communications strategy should repeatedly and effectively elevate the key cost drivers that the cost growth mitigation strategy will address in the future. This cost-driver messaging should be done early, long before the development of the cost mitigation strategy.
Through repeated strategic messaging about what is driving health care cost growth, states can set the stage for future policy action. For example, Connecticut was able to pass legislation to codify its target program by gaining support via extensive outreach. The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) held regular meetings and briefings with legislators on issues around affordability and how the target program was working to address them. The OHS also developed relationships with stakeholders most closely aligned with the target program’s goals, including members of the business community, and worked with them to garner support.
The Peterson-Milbank Program for Sustainable Health Care Costs communications toolkit helps state policymakers develop a local communications plan to share the value of and progress within a state’s cost growth target initiative.
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