An Election Lesson

I know that by now we are all worn out from talking politics and even if your party won you are ready for a long respite away from ads, analysis and debate.  I do think it it is important to take some time and think about what happened and see if there are any lessons for our industry.  Perhaps the most interesting post-election comment came from an NBC numbers guy who said that lost in the plethora of political polls, focus groups and phone calls was the fact that all that was really needed to predict the outcome of the election was the latest US census report.  So simple yet so true.

Take a look at this lead story in last Thursday’s New York Times that discusses the change in demographics in our country and the impact that had on the election.  The country has become a real mix of people of different races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientation and economic situations.  We have always been proud of the fact that our country was a “melting pot” and that it was our diversity that made us strong.  In the past that diversity sort of remained around the edges as elections were won and decisions were made by mostly white men.  Well, it is obvious that this has now changed and the elections this year put an exclamation point on that reality.  You can no longer win without including all women and men in your coalition and addressing all the issues that matter to their lives.

Enough about elections.  Let’s look at our business and see what we can learn.  First, with all the data we look at to market our brands have we actually studied the census data and how these have changed over the last decade?  Do we really recognize the shifts that are taking place.  I know everyone talks about the baby boomers getting older and the middle class going away but what impact has that had on your marketing plans?  We all talk about the issues of immigration and homelessness but do we have marketing tactics for these growing patient groups?  The government through CMS and the VA provides healthcare for well over 100 million people, perhaps more than the number of us who voted, and yet how many people in each company are dedicated to this business?

The Affordable Care Act, even for the most skeptical in the country, now seems to be solid.  Over the next couple years we will see the massive change this law brought about.  How many people in your company are dedicated to calling on accountable care organizations?  How many are thinking about the impact the exchanges will have on our business?  What percent of the uninsured will be brought into the system and where will they land?  How will our marketing plans differ based on this happening?  For just a glimpse of what is to come note that the most productive population for our industry last year were those young adults under the age of 26 who because of the ACA received drug coverage by remaining on their parent’s insurance.

Perhaps the most dangerous statement in the Times article was at the end where someone said we didn’t lose by much and a total overhaul is not needed.  This has in some ways been seen in our industry for the last decade when we say things like Medicaid is not profitable and it is tough to work with the VA.  LTC is tough to cover with our salesforce and hospitals no longer allow access.  We can’t get on Medicare formularies at launch so we will only concentrate on commercial.  Lower decile doctors are not worth the effort to call on.  The concern is we are still looking to do business the way we did 20 years ago where we had a one size fits all approach.  The world is changing dramatically.  As you are going about preparing next year’s business plan think about how it is different from this year’s and the even last year’s. If there are not dramatic changes that match the marketplace changes you will lose not win.  Think about last Tuesday night.

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