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

In late June, the Association of Community Affiliated Plans, a trade association representing Medicaid insurance plans with more than 20 million enrollees in 29 states hired Qorvis MSL in Washington to help them weigh in and make an immediate impact.   As the first group of insurers to publicly join the contentious debate, ACAP wanted both a compelling message that would stand out in the crowded media landscape, and a Red-state strategy.

Qorvis MSL sprang into action 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. According to Chuck Alston, the Director of Health Policy & Public Affairs at MSL, the message focused 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 we instead of serving as caretakers. “Because 60 percent of people with Medicaid and 80 percent of the people covered by the Medicaid expansion work, we deliberately played against the stereotype that Medicaid is welfare,” said Alston.  “This created a fresh conversation that engaged 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 only two days, with only stock footage, VO and superscript to drive the visuals and messaging. In less than a week, the first of more than 5,500 broadcast spots aired in six states and the District of Columbia as part of a seven-figure digital and broadcast buy. Digital advertising began with testing of more than 180 variations of Facebook advertisements aimed at specific audience segments, all driving traffic to the website where constituents were able to contact their elected officials via email, Facebook or Twitter.


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Alston explained that the unique messaging proved compelling to health care reporters – and led to national coverage. “The 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 from West Virginia to Ohio and Nevada -- this in just the first few days,” Alston said.

As the Senate unexpectedly postponed a vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Senators headed back to their home states for the 4th of July recess. When they got home, our campaign was waiting for them -- with ads that ran into mid-July. The immediate success of the strategy persuaded ACAP to extend the length of and the budget for the campaign as ACAP members and preferred vendors became energized by the creativity and ambitions of the campaign. In addition to Alston, the Qorvis MSL team is led by public affairs veteran 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.