The Week That Was


“Happy Monday” is an oxymoron for many of you, but over here at TWTW headquarters we’re feeling psyched. Our favorite fall TV shows are finally starting back up and we’ve DVRed (yes, it’s a verb people) the Sanders-Klobuchar versus Graham-Cassidy Town Hall debate on CNN. Tomorrow night’s match-up is the equivalent of the Kanye vs Taylor showdown for healthcare nerds.

But before we head into a new week, let’s take a moment to reflect on the one we just wrapped. So grab a cup of coffee—maybe just not this one—and read on for The Week That Was.


Congress goes back to work today, and not everyone is excited about what’s on the agenda; particularly late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel has become one of the most public critics of the new Obamacare reform effort introduced by the Senate duo Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Kimmel railed against Senator Cassidy in not one, but two monologues on his show last week. In the segments, Kimmel takes a page out of the late, great political correspondent Tim Russert’s playbook, by holding Senator Cassidy to his own rhetoric. Kimmel played Senator Cassidy’s recorded comments on TV to show that the current bill language did not pass the Senator’s own “lie detector test” about good health insurance policy. Kimmel’s segments cover a lot of ground, but the below quote stood out: “Healthcare is complicated—it’s boring—I don’t want to talk about it. The details are confusing, and that’s what these guys are relying on. They’re counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information that you just trust them to take care of you. But they’re not taking care of you.”


Kimmel may have summed up how a lot of Americans are feeling about healthcare and healthcare reform. It’s in the news week after week, and the general public may be growing weary of the debate. Regardless of a near constant dialogue, as healthcare communicators, we cannot become complacent about translating policy jargon into terms that matter to those we seek to serve. Keep in mind, as of February of this year one of three Americans didn’t know that “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act are one in the same. So what does that mean for us? Work hard to speak simply. Toss out healthcare and science jargon, and work with your employees, patient advocates, and physicians groups to explain what some of the proposed policies mean to coverage. Block grants, pre-existing conditions, waivers, CHIP Program, may all sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher without a clear definition. Our test: make sure you’re using language that people 16-60 will understand and get what you’re talking about.


“We’re more than just a soft drink company” is the message coming through loud and clear in The Coca-Cola Company’s recent television campaign. The ads feature a different side of the beverage giant: one that makes a wide-ranging portfolio of drinks, uses sustainable water practices, and is deeply rooted in local communities. The ad campaign profiles employees across the nation representing the local face of Coke’s 90,000 person workforce, as well as fire fighters drinking bottles of SmartWater. The campaign is a visible departure from the more familiar face of Coke, which in years’ past spent most of its marketing dollars promoting its soft drink brands. The rebranding comes at a time when the beverage industry as a whole is seeking a fresh start following years of declining sales and debates over soft drinks and public health.


Rock on, Coca-Cola. This campaign shows every step Coca-Cola has taken to bring value to its communities, employees and consumers – in a challenging environment. All too often, companies neglect to package and tell the story about the things they do to make a difference to their communities. Developing your value story and infusing it in marketing and communications strategies–particularly using highly visible platforms like national ads–can paint a fuller picture, so stakeholders beyond the company’s walls know what you do and importantly, why you do it.


The blame for opioid abuse and ineffective pain management strategies got squarely placed on the shoulders of non-other than insurers last week. Part of an ongoing series about drug pricing and access by The New York Times and ProPublica, the most recent article implied insurers may actually be fueling opioid addiction. Waitwhat? We pay premiums so we have access to medicines when we need them, right? Well, according to ProPublica, “safer” pain medications (i.e., those with a lower risk of addiction or dependence), cost more. So, patients and physicians who desire more expensive, non-opioid pain relievers, are finding themselves in situations where their insurers have denied access and they are only reimbursed for less-expensive (more addictive) opioids.


Without a doubt, there are many measures insurers are taking to track and reduce opioid prescribing, but the Times and ProPublica raise the question: “Are we kicking costs and potentially public health down the road by reimbursing addictive pain therapies instead of non-opioid options?” That debate won’t end here. And for those in the pain management industry reading this newsletter: expect more investigative reporting into “hidden” costs of drugs. The NYT/ProPublica are soliciting patient stories on their sites and giving them a high-profile platform, so expect greater focus on the role of payers and PBMs on drug costs in the weeks ahead.

Until next week, 

the Reputation & Risk Management Practice @Syneos Health Communications

About the Author:

We are a team of healthcare communicators, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. Drawing upon professional experiences from Congress, CMS, HHS, hospitals, and health technology—and our collective work in rare disease, oncology, diabetes, gene therapy, pain management and infectious disease—we provide unique solutions to the evolving messaging challenges in today’s healthcare industry. We support our clients with evidence-based approaches to preventing pricing pushback, protecting brands from modern activism, establishing and communicating clear policies surrounding expanded access to medicines, and a proactive approach to value frameworks. Our offerings also include product safety, litigation, regulatory risks, ex-U.S. considerations and policymaker investigations.