Alan Balch, PhD
National Patient Advocate
Bonnie Washington is the Vice President of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs of Aetna, leading the development of company policy on key issues such as Medicare, Medicaid and Exchanges, and commercial health insurance.
Prior to joining Aetna, Bonnie was Senior Vice President at Avalere Health where she led a team that provided analysis and advice to clients on a wide range of issues including Medicare, Medicaid, Exchange implementation and health reform. Prior to Avalere, Bonnie led health policy development for Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and, before that, United Health Group. Prior to her industry experience, Bonnie led the Office of Legislation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), where she represented the administrator on legislation and policy issues and Medicare and Medicaid. Previously, she served as an analyst with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), advising OMB and White House policy officials on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Bonnie holds a BA degree from Loyola College in Maryland and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics.
National Association of
Council for Affordable Health
Council for Affordable Health Coverage
Joel is the President of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. In addition, Joel is on the Boards of Directors of America’s Health and the Newborn Foundation. He is a Member of BNA’s Health IT Law and Industry Report Advisory Council, and is the Chair of the Health Advisory Committee of Broadband for America. Finally, he is an advisor to AHIMA as a member of their Emerging Issues Practice Council.
Joel spent twelve years on Capitol Hill as professional staff, where he helped enact nine laws, including the 2002 Trade Act, which created health care tax credits, the 2003 law that established the Medicare prescription drug benefit and Health Savings Accounts, the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, and the 2006 Tax Reform and Health Care Act, which reformed Medicare payment policies.
Joel spent six years as staff on the Committee on Ways and Means, first as Professional Staff and then as Staff Director of the Health Subcommittee. As Staff Director, Joel had responsibility for advising Members of Congress, developing strategy, holding hearings and negotiating and helping to enact legislation into law. Joel helped to produce more than 100 hearings on various issues and five laws while working for the Committee. Prior to his work on the Committee on Ways and Means staff, Joel worked for Congressman Jim Greenwood (PA) for two years and Congressman Chris Shays (CT) for four years.
He is also the co-author of the book, Facts and Figures on Government Finance (1992), which brings together data on public finance at all levels of government, with comparisons of taxing and spending levels spanning a half century. He holds a BS in Economics from the American University and is a member of the National Economist’s Club.
National Association for the Self-Employed
Healthcare Leadership Council
Healthcare Leadership Council
Debbie Witchey is Executive Vice President of the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC), a coalition of chief executives of the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations.
In her position, she leads HLC’s government affairs function, and directs HLC’s extensive field organization in advancing quality-driven healthcare system built upon the tenets of innovation, competition and cost-effectiveness. Ms. Witchey also leads HLC’s work on coverage, wellness and workforces issues. She coordinated HLC’s Health Access America campaign, and built and leads HLC’s Medicare Today coalition of more than 400 organizations.
Prior to joining HLC, Ms. Witchey worked in the community development field, most recently for five years as the director of the community health initiative for what is now Roper St. Francis Healthcare, a not-for-profit healthcare system based in Charleston, South Carolina. In this role, Ms. Witchey worked with a variety of funding partners to create innovative public-private partnerships to address top health concerns in the Charleston area.
She has also served in the public sector at the United States Department of the Treasury for five years, ending her tenure as acting assistant secretary for management and deput assistant secretary.
Ms. Witchey is on several professional and community boards. She has an undergraduate degree in public policy with a concentration in health from Duke University and her master’s in health administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Alan Balch, PhD
National Patient Advocate Foundation
Dr. Balch has a decade of executive leadership in the non-profit sector with an emphasis on consensus-building and collaboration. From 2006 – 2013, he served as the Vice President of the Preventive Health Partnership — a national health promotion collaboration between the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association. Prior to his work with the Preventive Health Partnership, Dr. Balch was the Executive Director of Friends of Cancer Research.
He has led numerous federal advocacy efforts on a range of issues both at the legislative and regulatory level over the years. For example, he helped to organize and lead a coalition that successfully fought for improvements in the regulatory process for the review of cancer drugs at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He also contributed to the development of key federal policies related to the Affordable Care Act.
Dr. Balch serves on the Executive Board of the Patient Advocate Foundation and National Patient Advocate Foundation and serves on the board for Fight Colorectal Cancer. Dr. Balch also is a member of the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Wellness and Health Promotion Advisory Committee, a member of the Guiding Committee for the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network (LAN). and serves on the Advisory Board for the Patient Resource Cancer Guides, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, and the External Advisory Board for the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR). Dr. Balch also serves on the Finance Committee for the National Health Council in Washington, DC.
He earned his PhD in environmental studies in 2003 from the University of California, Santa Cruz; his master’s degree in environmental sciences in 1997 from the University of Texas in San Antonio; his bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in biology in 1994 from Trinity University in San Antonio.
Robyn BoerstlingNational Association of Manufacturers
Robyn M. Boerstling joined the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in 2008 and now serves as the vice president of infrastructure, innovation and human resources policy. In this capacity, she leads the policy and advocacy work on issues covering transportation, infrastructure, innovation and technology, health care, immigration and workforce. In addition, she works to ensure the manufacturing voice is brought to these legislative and regulatory issues before Congress and the administration.
Prior to her work at the NAM, Ms. Boerstling served as the counselor to the assistant secretary for transportation policy in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). She worked in policy development and assisted with the day-to-day management of the Office of Transportation Policy. Ms. Boerstling joined the DOT in October 2001 as a “Schedule C” presidential appointee and held various positions during the tenure of Secretary Norman Mineta and Secretary Mary Peters. Her early career was spent on a congressional campaign and working in the Connecticut General Assembly.
A native of Connecticut, Ms. Boerstling is a graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and she earned an M.A. in English from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. She serves on the Washington Board for Colby College’s Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement.
John Desser is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy at eHealth, where he manages day-to-day operations of eHealth's health care policy work in Washington D.C. and oversees all of eHealth’s government affairs efforts. Mr. Desser has over 25 years of experience working in government affairs and public policy.
Prior to eHealth, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While at HHS, Mr. Desser led the George W. Bush Administration's "Affordable Choices" initiative to extend basic, affordable health insurance to the uninsured.
Desser also managed the health care practice at Jefferson Government Relations, LLC, and played a key role in the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Mr. Desser also worked as a health policy advisor and aide for former U.S. Representative Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and served as a health policy advisor on Sen. McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008.
He is a founder and board member of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, a founding board member of the Association for Web Based Health Insurance Brokers, and serves on the board of the Alliance for Safe Biologic Medicine. Mr. Desser holds a BA degree in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University.
Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
At PCMA Johnson develops and supports forward leaning policy and public affairs activities on behalf of the Pharmacy Benefit Managers industry. His nearly 20 years’ of advocacy experience crosses a broad spectrum of the health care industry including health insurers, providers, and health quality organizations.
Prior to coming to PCMA, Mr. Johnson was at the Health Insurance Association of America. He also worked on policy and lobbying activities for the American Health Quality Association and the American Optometric Association.
Jeff Smedsrud has built and grown health insurance marketing and business companies for over 20 years, and served as a healthcare reform advocate for much of his career. He has been a provider of expert testimony on healthcare issues before national and state committees. Jeff was also one of the founders of the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Plans (NASCHIP), and helped sponsor programs to assist those denied health insurance for medical reasons.
Previously, Jeff was Chief Marketing Strategy Officer and Senior Vice President of The IHC Group, a publicly traded insurance holding company. He joined IHC in March 2006 following the acquisition of his marketing companies by IHC. He was also President of IHC’s fully insured division, which he grew from $0 to nearly $300 million in revenue in seven years. He also led IHC Health Solutions, IHC Specialty Benefits and Independent Producers of America, Chief Executive Officer, and served as President of American Independence Corporation.
A member of Seven Continents Club, Jeff is an active runner and one of only 200 individuals to run a marathon on all seven continents. Jeff is also a cancer survivor, charity activist and motivational speaker, residing in Minneapolis.
National Association for the Self-Employed
Katie Vlietstra serves the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) as Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs, leading the association’s federal advocacy and public affairs strategy in representing the 23 million self-employed.
Katie brings ten years of government affairs experience, which includes successes in the legislative and regulatory arenas in both the public and private sector, in executing the NASE’s legislative and communication strategy. In previous roles, she has worked on nearly every issue, including internet sales tax, hurricane recovery, immigration, fair labor standards act, tax, health care, and transportation.
No stranger to the media, Katie is often called upon to comment on the pressing legislative topics of the day, including health care, tax reform, and immigration reform. Her passion for communicating the impact of laws and regulations on America’s smallest businesses makes her a sought after commentator. Katie has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, Roll Call, The Hill, USA Today, and CQ Weekly, and has appeared on FOX, C-SPAN, and MSNBC. Katie also provides commentary for The Huffington Post on small business issues.
Katie is the immediate past president of Women in Government Relations, the largest professional development organization for women in the field of government relations. Additional volunteer service includes the board of directors for the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, her international sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, and as a softball coach for Virginia Special Olympics. A graduate of Chapman University (B.A.) and George Mason University (M.A.), Katie will tell anyone she experienced the best of both coasts, being born and raised on the West and pursuing her professional life on the East.
Katie and her husband, David Wonnenberg, reside on Capitol Hill with their 90lbs black Labrador, Coltrane. Most weekends you can find them roaming Eastern Market or playing a game of volleyball behind the Lincoln Memorial.