Media Get the Message and Start Probing

This is the final installment in a three-part blog series analyzing how media coverage of Congressional attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have bolstered Medicaid. This series shows how what happened with Medicaid can be used to help combat the inevitable cuts the Congress plans to make in other safety net programs.  

A sense of drama energized media coverage of attempts to cut Medicaid through the ACA repeal. People in wheelchairs were forcibly ejected by police after they mounted die-ins at the Senate. This incredible narrative contrasted disabled victims with congressional perpetrators.

The media quickly grasped the human drama and probed for other angles. This week on WNYC, the spotlight shifted to the many and varies people who are covered Medicaid in New York, including:

  • 67 percent of nursing home residents
  • 54 percent of people with physical or cognitive disabilities
  • 51 percent of births
  • 40 percent of children
  • 20 percent of all adults

Similar stories appeared across the country. The Kaiser Family Foundation emerged as the gold standard for Medicaid-related data. Their storehouse of data was used by news outlets and advocates alike.

Observing a sampling of tweets about Medicaid from Kaiser Health News (@KHNews) and Kaiser Family Found (@KaiserFamFound) from June 26 to July 9, 2017 offers illuminating insight into the power of sharing credible information through Twitter. In that two-week window Kaiser Health News posted 23 tweets specifically related to Medicaid. These tweets, combined, were retweeted a respectable 283 times. Similarly, Kaiser Family Found tweeted about Medicaid 56 times, and their Medicaid tweets were retweeted a whopping 3,358 times combined. (These figures are as of July 11, 2017.)

Other groups that led the charge on social media and as spokespeople included:

  • National Coalition on Health Care
  • Disabilities
  • HIV
  • Nursing Homes
  • Schools

Organizations like Protect Our Care (@Protect_Care_US) and Families USA (@FamiliesUSA) pushed relatable personal stories on the forefront. From June 26 to July 9, Protect Our Care posted 161 tweets on Medicaid, and these were retweeted 1,038 times combined. Likewise, Families USA shared 103 tweets about Medicaid, and these tweets, combined, were retweeted 2,000. (These figures are as of July 12, 2017.)

Other organizations and coalitions were part of these efforts as well. They include American Health Care Association (@ahcancal), Community Catalyst (@HealthPolicyHub), National Coalition on Health Care (@NC_HC), The National Council on Aging (@NCOAging), and Save My Care (@SaveMyCare).

The Takeaway

The following ingredients made recent coverage of Medicaid influential and persuasive. These lessons should be applied to other issues by the progressive resistance.

1. Don’t lose your big message in the drama.

When events move fast, it’s even more important to hold fast to your key talking points.

2. Slice and dice the story to reveal new audiences and potential constituents.

Surprise journalists and the public with lesser-known stories about who’s affected by your issue.

3. Put a human face on it.

This is of course overused advice, but when it comes to something so big and so misunderstood the story needs to be wrestled from the Beltway policy crowd. All politics is local, so bring the drama to your home district.

4. Data matters.

Kaiser Health News and the Family Foundation are the mother lode of data that seems to be cited most often and you can see why.  They Tweet essential data a couple of times a day that is re-tweeted and reported in the news media.

5. Keep “feeding the beast.”

The drumbeat of new information released daily by pro health care forces through tweets of data and personal stories has kept Medicaid in the forefront of the debate.