Team Obamacare is forming its own in-house Media Matters of sorts, as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prepares to hire a media agency that will keep its finger on the pulse of what everyone across TV, print and the Internet is saying about the Affordable Care Act.
While it’s not surprising that cabinet-level offices expend some resources to keep daily tabs on how the public feels about its performance, the idea in this case seems to go beyond that. Reading the stipulations for the contract, it looks as though the department is playing catch-up.
From a hiring notice posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website Dec. 9:
Agency officials will be able to make better decisions if they have an easier, faster, more reliable way to get all the latest information about their organization and its mission. Providing HHS officials with timely, easy-to-digest information on a daily basis keeps them in the best position to react to fast-moving events and unfolding issues of concern to the Department. Without this knowledge, HHS leaders can be left ignorant and unaware of what the public, Congress and stakeholders may be saying and reacting to, thus leaving HHS officials less than fully informed in their decision making processes.
While the Secretary, the agency heads, and senior leaders across the Department are critical customers, it is important to the Department in general that staff at all levels in all agencies be aware of how the Department and its agencies are being cast in the public eye. All HHS staff essentially are “ambassadors” to the public on the Department’s behalf.
“Ignorant and unaware” have been the order of the day at HHS, especially where its relationship with the White House is concerned. The Government Accountability Institute revealed earlier this month that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Barack Obama did not meet in a scheduled setting a single time during the three-year run-up to the Oct. 1 launch of Obamacare.
“Equally shocking,” noted POLITICO at the time, “over the same period, the President’s calendar lists 277 private meetings with his other Cabinet secretaries (excluding full Cabinet meetings).”