William & Mary graduates include many alums who work in the field of health policy. The Schroeder Center for Health Policy is pleased to highlight some of these alums through a series of interviews focusing on their career paths, current job responsibilities, and their experiences at William & Mary that helped prepare them for their health-related work.
Below is an interview with Amanda Smith Cassidy, who received an M.P.P. from William & Mary in 1998.
What was your first job after graduating from William & Mary, and what were your responsibilities? In your current position, what are your responsibilities?
My first job after William & Mary was as an analyst at Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), a social science research firm that conducts studies and evaluations for the federal government and private foundations in a variety of different issue areas including health care. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) had recently passed making big changes in the way that Medicare pays for services, including in the Medicare managed care program. MPR was already conducting evaluations of demonstration projects underway when the BBA passed and then also began studies into the effects of the broad scale changes under the new law. I worked on those evaluations and studies, doing both qualitative research through onsite interviews with health plan staff and beneficiary advocates around the country and quantitative research measuring the impact of the changes on plan and beneficiary participation.
After MPR, I went to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that runs Medicare and co-administers Medicaid with the states. This move gave me the opportunity to learn more about Medicare processes, the intricacies of the Medicare payment systems, and the impact that Medicare has on the healthcare system overall.
Today, I am a health policy consultant at Arnold & Porter, a DC law firm with a large health policy practice. We advise clients, primarily drug and device companies, about how specific products will be treated by Medicare and help them interact with CMS to clarify issues or resolve problems. We engage with CMS through annual rulemaking efforts that are updating the numerous Medicare payment systems and provide comments that help CMS better understand the impact of payment policies on health care providers and industry. My day to day activities include client meetings and calls, research on CMS policy and analysis of Medicare data, and development of alternative ideas to address policy issues.
What was your favorite class at William & Mary? Do you use any of the skills/knowledge learned in that class in your current job?
Two of my favorite classes at William & Mary were Len Schifrin’s health care policy class and Ron Rapoport’s survey class. The health care class was my first detailed exposure to how the U.S. healthcare system differs from systems in other countries, why that is, and the impact that those differences have on the manner in which health care is provided and access to care. It was a great foundation for my future career in health policy. In the survey class, I learned how to frame questions and present information and saw firsthand the affect that language has on how issues are perceived when we developed and fielded a phone survey. I have returned to those lessons again and again in assessing how different audiences will respond to materials and how to gather needed information. (I also try to participate whenever I get called for a survey!)
What is the most exciting project that you have worked on since graduating from William & Mary?
I got to witness the birth of a new Medicare payment system - the Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS). I started at CMS at the same time that the agency was implementing this new payment system for hospital outpatient department services. I worked in the Office of Legislation and saw how the agency took the high level statutory language mandating the system and put it into operation, how providers and other healthcare industries wrestled over the details of the system with CMS (and on Capitol Hill when the agency didn’t do what they wanted), and the political and logistical pressures that the agency faced in making the new system worked. I continue to work on issues affected by OPPS payment policy and have seen how the system has evolved over time.
What is one thing that current students should not miss while on campus at William & Mary?
William & Mary professors were very accessible and made time to work with students. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about specific issues or different careers paths.