Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Challenge

Harvard Pilgrim is a not-for-profit health plan with approximately 800,000 members in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Harvard Pilgrim and CEO Charlie Baker were working on numerous innovative initiatives to help businesses control the rising cost of health care but the message was not reaching business decision-makers, including CEOs, COOs, CFOs and human resource executives. Companies across the country, including New England, were struggling to continue to cover their employees at current levels and still maintain a profitable bottom line. Employees were struggling because employers were pushing more cost to them in the form of co-pays and higher premiums.  In 2004, a worker is paying an average of $2,700 for family coverage, almost a 67 percent increase over 2000 rates. Clearly new ideas were needed and business leaders, health plans and employers all need to discuss the issue.  Harvard Pilgrim and CEO Charlie Baker wanted to be thought-leader on the issue and find a vehicle for talking to businesses about methods to address the situation in their companies.

Solution

O’Neill and Associates developed a comprehensive communications plan to position Harvard Pilgrim and CEO Charlie Baker as a thought leader in the health care industry of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  O’Neill and Associates analyzed trends in health care and recommended that HPHC conduct a survey of health care decision-makers at 200 area employers to ascertain their feelings on premium increases as well as the rising cost of healthcare. In the survey of health care decision-makers, 92 percent said health care costs are out of control, but only 35 percent are considering taking any additional action to address the situation. This key finding and other survey results provided the platform for Charlie Baker to address the issue with business leaders and gave HPHC the necessary news hook to gain the attention of reporters across the region. The message was clear: health care costs are rising and without change on the parts of employers, employees and health plans the future will be bleak.

O’Neill and Associates crafted a message that addressed the situation and provided real action to change the downward spiral; this included information concerning the important role employees have to take in lowering health care costs through informed use of their health plan.  Once the message was ready, O’Neill and Associates developed a regional campaign that takes Charlie Baker to towns across the region to speak to business groups, business leaders and influential media. Additionally, O’Neill and Associates created collateral materials to support Charlie Baker’s speeches and further explained actions that could be taken to deal with the current health care crisis.

Results

O’Neill and Associates kicked off the campaign with a keynote address by Charlie Baker to the membership of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Since then Charlie Baker has addressed more than 500 business leaders in places including the South Shore, the North Shore and Worcester. The campaign has been covered by more than 20 news outlets including the business pages and columns of the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Worcester Telegram & GazettePatriot Ledger, Worcester Business Journal and the Boston Business Journal. Charlie Baker has also been the featured guest on talk radio and television programs, including NECN News Night, WBZ, WBIX, WRKO, The Jordan Levy Show, and WINC Worcester. In addition, O’Neill and Associates was instrumental in the writing and placement of an opinion piece by Charlie Baker in the Boston Globe.

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