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We expect the Supreme Court will issue its decision on legal challenges to the ACA by the end of June, if not earlier. Although there is no way to be certain of the decision’s timing or the precise details of the verdict itself, advocates and organizers must be ready to immediately respond in ways that define that outcome of this case for their members, the public and the press as soon as possible after the announcement of the ruling. Once the Supreme Court issues a decision, national and state press will focus much of their attention on reporting the legal details and speculating on the political significance of the outcome. This creates is a huge opportunity for advocates to elevate a message about the benefits of the law for average people and to influence the coverage so that we tell the political and human story that most helps us protect and preserve the law moving forward. To do this, we’ll have to move quickly and be ready to respond with events and other activities as these stories are being written: within 24 hours of the decision. To accommodate this quick turnaround time, it's important to start lining up elements and resources to stage events and execute activities that anticipate the context in the moment when the news breaks. Note that many of these can be lined up NOW, without any additional information about the timing or specifics of the decision.
What should organizations prepare in May to be ready to respond to the June decision?
• Prepare Your Organization’s Statement Develop a statement based on common messaging to release to the press nationally and in states immediately following the decision. Ideally, this statement would be ready to go by Memorial Day and would need only minor tweaks by the time you send it. Plan Events Now That Can be Executed Immediately After the Decision The best way to demonstrate public outrage or public celebration about the decision is to stage an event that shows average people actually responding to the news. We can do this by organizing events as quickly after the announcement of the decision as possible while the media window is still open--ideally, within 12-24 hours. To do this, we’ll need to start assembling the elements of these events now, so that they will be lined up and ready to go on decision day (if the ruling comes early in the day) or the following day. See below for more details on how to plan these events now. Recruit, Gather and Prepare Your “Real People” Stories No matter what the flavor of our response is, we’ll need real people who are impacted by the decision to anchor our message and create urgency. Now is the time to find more stories, train key constituency messengers and put spokespeople on alert that they will be needed for events, social media and press release quotes within 24 hours of the decision. Develop materials like e-alerts, press templates, social media tools, and talking points To break through with our message and influence the narrative around the decision, we’ll need tools ready to go as soon as the announcement comes that both ask our supporters to take action and that amplify our coordinated message. These materials should not focus on the particulars of the legal decision or even specific policy implications, but actually on the impact (or possible impact) of a favorable or unfavorable decision on regular people who depend on the ACA for health care. The final messaging will be either celebratory or agitational in tone depending on the result, but we will need to have both versions prepared to go.
A Guide to Preparing “Day After” Events In Advance
Advocates should plan events like press conferences, rallies, actions, telephone pressers, forums and assorted visibility events (like a “honk and wave” or a Burma shave) for the day after the announcement of the Supreme Court decision. These events are our best opportunity to show the public’s reaction, to successfully garner press and to mobilize public opinion in real time. Note that the faster these events happen, the more press-worthy they will be. Waiting longer to orchestrate events diminishes the urgency of our message and risks the press losing interest in our reaction. To execute events immediately after the decision, groups will need to assemble all the composite parts of the action in advance so that those event organizers will only need to do follow up and fill in some blanks at the time of execution. See below for advance work you can do in May to ensure you have a timely and successful event in June. Choose a venue ahead of time. It’s always important to choose a venue that visually suggests your message, is easily accessible to the press and that will make your speakers feel comfortable. You can choose one venue that works for all scenarios, or plan around a couple of different venues that accommodate different outcomes. Venues For ANY Decision State Capitols (especially if your session is still in progress) Federal Courthouse Steps Senior Centers Venues for Unfavorable Decision Hospital Emergency Rooms Home or Small Business of Someone Who will Lose Benefits MOC Office (Supreme Court sides with Republicans in Congress and insurance companies) State AG or Governor’s office Venues for Favorable Decision University/Campus or schools PPFA Clinic or other location that provides health services including Medicaid enrollment. Pro-ACA Lawmakers’ Office (MOC, Mayor, State Leg, etc.) Outside Insurance Company (SCOTUS sided with consumers, guaranteeing protections against pre-ex, etc. will stay in place).
Community Health Centers, Clinics, Community Living Centers Insurance Commissioners’ Office
Line up your spokespeople ahead of time. The most compelling speakers will be the folks that are directly impacted--people with stories who are either going to keep their coverage or lose their benefits. Below are examples of other compelling speakers: • Teachers who can talk about the impact of the decision on the future of kids; • Docs/Nurses/Providers who can talk about impact on patients; • Small Business People; • State Legislators and other State Elected Officials who can talk about state impact; • “Experts”, Academics and Advocates who are recognized authorities and will draw media attention; • Hospital Administrators or Board Members, Community Health Center Directors, Nursing Home or Home Health Agency Administrators, etc. who can talk about jobs and services lost or gained. Your people with stories and other speakers need to be recruited, trained and prepared to respond
within 24 hours by the end of May. Inoculate your speakers, partners, and allies on message. It’s important and reasonable considering legal precedent to continue projecting confidence that the court will uphold the law but, at the same time, we must be truly prepared for any scenario. We should prepare advocates and activists who will participate in rapid response for an outcome that is mixed, muddled or even negative with a coordinated message with the public that will: • •
Highlight the impact on people who benefit from the ACA; Simplify the outcome so average folks understand what happened and why; Avoids delving into arcane legal explanations or speculation on policy implications; Celebrates what we won and highlights the political agenda behind takeaways or lost benefits.
Coordinated messaging will be developed centrally at the PYC/KYC table and shared communitywide.
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