« March 2016 Issue

“ACA is Here to Stay” Campaign Points the Way Forward

Following last summer’s historic Supreme Court win in the King v. Burwell case, Community Catalyst launched a short-term campaign, “The ACA is Here to Stay” aimed at shifting the way we talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to emphasize the need to build off of its foundation while also working to improve it.

In August, Community Catalyst worked with PerryUndem Research/Communication, a national polling firm, to run two focus groups in each of three states – North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. From these focus groups we created new messaging designed to resonate with voters who have had stronger reservations about the law. In September, together with SEIU, Community Catalyst contracted with Perry/Undem to conduct a poll on the ACA in five battleground states – Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – to further refine our new messaging.

Briefly, some key findings of the polling were:

Using findings compiled from the focus groups and polling, Community Catalyst partnered with advocacy organizations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to develop and implement three-month campaigns incorporating grassroots mobilization as well as earned and social media. Amy Rosenthal, Community Catalyst Director of  External Affairs and Campaigns, explained, “The goal was to see if we could gain traction on the state and local level using our new messaging to build a more positive narrative around the ACA.”

Below are highlights from the efforts in each of these states.

North Carolina

To engage existing supporters, Action North Carolina launched an online petition that garnered nearly 2,000 signatures and generated emails to members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation, urging them to stop wasting time trying to repeal and replace the ACA and to focus instead on improving it.

At a Veterans Day event, veterans called on members of North Carolina’s Congressional delegation to work on bringing the cost of care down for veterans and urged state legislators and the governor to expand Medicaid. This generated both local TV and print media coverage including this Raleigh News & Observer op-ed. Further, Action North Carolina undertook a canvassing operation that engaged over 3,000 people and resulted in over 300 new supporters as well as gathered stories of people who have benefited from the ACA.


Pennsylvania Health Action Network (PHAN) organized on and offline around the ACA Is Here to Stay Campaign, aggressively promoting ACA messaging through earned and social media.

In total, over 1,500 people signed an online petition and sent postcards urging members of Congress to stop wasting time on repeal and replace. Over 70 new consumer stories were collected including this video featuring a member who has benefitted from the law. PHAN Executive Director Antoinette Krauss wrote this Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed that was also included in the Kaiser daily media round-up. Volunteers attended several Congressional town hall meetings as part of the work. In terms of ways to move forward from the ACA, PHAN highlighted surprise billing as an important consumer issue that needed to be addressed. As a result, state legislators sponsored a bill and held a hearing on the topic.


Reducing costs was a central component of the work in Wisconsin. Citizen Action Wisconsin drew attention to the high costs of insurance in Wisconsin compared to Minnesota. The campaign was also used to enhance enrollment work, as well as engage supportive elected officials and call out those elected officials who continue to work to repeal the law. To address the high cost of care, Citizen Action worked to elevate the need for rate review legislation, organizing events throughout the state for media, members of the public and partner groups such as nurses. The efforts resulted in dozens of media stories on rates in Wisconsin and established rate review as a tool to improve the ACA. An op-ed on rate review authored by Citizen Action Executive Director Robert Kraig appeared in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the state’s largest newspaper.

Citizen Action also elevated the high cost of prescription drugs as an issue to tackle going forward, creating a report on the high costs and price variability of prescriptions across the state.

Rosenthal framed the value of these efforts:  “The ACA is Here to Stay campaign in the three states reinforced for us the findings of the messaging research – voters want to move forward and focus on improving the law. The policy proposals used in the campaigns – rate review, prescription drug cost containment, surprise/balanced billing – all resonated because the public wants to see leadership in these areas. This work represents a strong indicator of the value of pursuing these messages in the months ahead.”

Bruce Gore, Communications Coordinator

O N   T H E   W I R E

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Follow the new Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation on Twitter at @CCEHI for health system transformation updates!

We partnered with our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families to create a video showing how closing the coverage gap is not only good for working families but is also beneficial to state budgets. Watch it here: “Medicaid Coverage Gap 101”

Congratulations to board member Kavita Patel, MD for receiving the 2016 Cancer Center Innovator Award at the Cancer Center Business Summit.

We’d like to welcome Nancy A. Whitelaw, the co-director/program consultant at Practice Change Fellows/Leaders, to the Community Catalyst board of directors and Eddy Morales, director of the Latino Engagement Fund at the Democratic Alliance, to the Community Catalyst Action Fund board of directors.

Ann Hwang, MD, director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, spoke about setting up stronger primary care services in Kaiser Health News. In a Health Affairs blog post, Ann reflected on the Center’s mission and January launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Strategic Policy Director Michael Miller talks about the importance of public relations when encouraging Medicaid enrollment among consumers in The Times-Picayune.

Katherine Howitt, associate director of policy, was featured on the Healthcare Finances Management Association website after Louisiana passed legislation to close the coverage gap.

We’re excited to announce that Cindy Mann, formerly the top Medicaid official in the Obama Administration, has joined Community Catalyst and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation as a strategic advisor. 

We also welcoming Bob Master, MD, founder and former chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, as a senior fellow at the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Ilene Weismehl, Database and CRM Manager; Kris Wiitala, Program Associate; Jennifer Lemmerman, associate director, External Affairs; Also, congratulations are in order for Tera Bianchi, who was promoted to Dental Access Program project director.

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