The American Hospital Association's board of trustees last week approved a $1 million plan for mobilizing the organization's national grass-roots campaign for healthcare reform.
The effort will be aided by the public relations firm Ogilvy Adams & Rinehart, which will design communication tools, such as guides to conducting editorial board meetings and building local coalitions, as well as help to develop locally targeted ads for the campaign, said Richard Wade, the AHA's senior vice president of communications. In addition, the campaign consulting firm of Doak, Shrum, Harris, Carrier, Devine, which usually serves Democratic clients, will conduct focus groups and opinion polls, Mr. Wade said.
The campaign, to be launched March 2, will cost nearly $1 million. The association may decide to fund the campaign with a special assessment on members, he added.
Mr. Wade likened the effort to a presidential campaign, targeting key congressional districts, with an initial focus on 111 districts around the country.
A steering committee, chaired by Scott Parker, president of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health Care, will be charged with making personal contact with individual hospital executives to enlist their aide in lobbying, writing opinion pieces for local papers, conducting letter-writing campaigns and other activities. The committee will be composed of about 20 hospital executives and trustees from around the country.
Each of AHA's nine regional offices will play a similar role in activating hospital executives. At times when the campaign is concentrating activities in particular districts, the AHA likely will deploy personnel from its Chicago office to beef up operations in the regions, Mr. Wade said.
In addition, state and metropolitan hospital associations will be asked to assign a coordinator to work with AHA's regional and national office. In some key districts, the AHA will ask individual hospitals to name a coordinator for the same purpose, to work on behalf of institutions within the community.
In Washington, Lee Zacharias, AHA's associate director of federal relations, has been assigned to the full-time role of campaign manager.
Mr. Wade described the grass-roots network as a "bottom-up" operation. For example, if the AHA wanted to convince a lawmaker of its position on reform, it would contact the grass-roots network in that area, explain the objective and provide a variety of persuasion strategies.