This multi-day virtual academy equipped staffers at the start of their career in health policy (or those that needed a refresher) with practical knowledge about fundamental facets of the health care system and the policymaking process. Sessions will feature speakers with experience working in/with federal policy institutions, including Congress and the executive branch. Topics addressed a variety of health policy topics including health care financing, the legislative process, COVID-19 response, the structure and function of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and public health infrastructure. Each session featured a keynote speaker, followed by a panel discussion with open Q&A.

Day 1: Insurance Coverage and How the U.S. Pays for Care

April 16, 2021 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

Keynote Overview: This keynote overviewed key legislative and non-legislative actions that have shaped and organized the current health care system, particularly related to health insurance and coverage developments. Attendees gained an understanding of the general timeline of landmark legislation, including the creation of the employer-sponsored insurance market, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as how policymaking has created the foundation for the health care system we have today.

Panel Overview: This panel outlined the basics of insurance benefit design, how major insurance programs function and pay for health care in the United States, and how policymakers consider tradeoffs between coverage and affordability. Attendees learned the similarities and differences of Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance programs and how they intersect. Panelists also discussed important metrics to track insurance coverage, how money flows through insurance markets, and how patients seek and pay for care.


  • Keynote: Robert S. Saunders, Ph.D., Research Director, Payment and Delivery Reform, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy (moderator)
  • Sabrina Corlette, J.D., Research Professor, Center on Health Insurance Reforms, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute
  • Brian Webb, MPA, Assistant Director, Health Policy and Legislation, National Association of Insurance Commissioners,
  • Rodney Whitlock, Ph.D., MA, Vice President, McDermott+ Consulting


Day 2: The U.S. Public Health System

April 23, 2021 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

Session Recording »

Keynote Overview: This keynote focused on high-level takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic response, including key legislative actions, public-private partnerships and changes to regulations to speed pandemic response. The keynote speaker focused on what has been different about this pandemic versus other public health emergencies, what changes may persist after COVID-19 is considered controlled, and why key lessons are important to guide future policymaking.

Panel Overview: This panel mapped and defined the significant players that comprise the U.S. public health infrastructure, ranging from policymakers to public health workers. Panelists addressed the role and function of public health entities, both governmental and non-governmental, and how they are funded. Attendees gained an understanding of how public health infrastructure intersects with the health care system, how these entities work together to create large- and small-scale public health responses, and policy options for improving our responses.


  • Keynote: Adriane Casalotti, MPH, MSW, Chief of Government and Public Affairs, National Association of County and City Health Officials (moderator)
  • Betty Bekemeier, Ph.D., MPH, RN, FAAN, Director, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice
  • Jaime C. Dircksen, Vice President, Community Health & Well-Being, Trinity Health
  • Dara Lieberman, MPP, Director of Government Relations, Trust for America’s Health


Day 3: Introduction to Congress and the Legislative Process

May 7, 2021 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

Keynote Overview: This keynote explored how policymaking power and responsibility are typically shared across U.S. branches of government, in addition to opportunities and challenges for effective collaboration. The speaker highlighted which entities are primarily responsible for interpreting and implementing policies and provide specific examples of how this impacts the development of health policy.

Panel Overview: This panel focused specifically on legislative timetables and processes, with a specific emphasis on procedures that impact health care policymaking. The role of congressional staff and committees was also considered. Attendees came away with a high-level understanding of how “the Hill” works including how pieces of legislation move through the House and Senate, how Congress makes decisions, and the role of evidence and the private sector in policymaking.


  • Keynote: Nick Uehlecke, Principal, Todd Strategy Group, former Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary at HHS, and former Committee on Ways and Means staff (moderator)
  • Sarah Levin, MPH, Professional Staff Member, U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health
  • Joy McGlaun, Senior Director, Government Affairs, CVS Health
  • James “JP” Paluskiewicz, Senior Policy Advisor, Alston & Bird


Day 4: Introduction to HHS and Health Policy Implementation

May 21, 2021 | 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. ET

Keynote Overview: This keynote summarized what has occurred in the first 100 days of the Biden/Harris administration and outlined what may come as the newly confirmed Cabinet begins to work on administration priorities. Topics included COVID-19 relief actions and notable policy changes that impact health policy or health care delivery.

Panel Overview: This panel provided an overview of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including current policy priorities and how the various operating divisions and offices act on those priorities. Panelists discussed the key HHS entities that impact health and health care, and how Congress and HHS staffers work together to develop and implement health policies.


  • Keynote: Sonja Nesbit, MPA, Managing Director, Strategic Communications, FTI Consulting (moderator)
  • Ann Agnew, Former Executive Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Jack Kalavritinos, J.D., Senior Advisor and Member, International Advisory Council and Health Advisory Board
  • John M. O’Brien, PharmD, MPH, President and CEO, National Pharmaceutical Council


This event was made possible with support from the Catholic Health Association.