Leslie V. Norwalk, Strategic Counsel in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was interviewed on Her Story, a podcast hosted by Julie Gerberding, M.D.

In the episode, Leslie discusses the career path that led her to serving as the Acting Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Bush Administration and shares her tips for other women building their executive careers in the health care industry.

Following is an excerpt:

“Once upon a time, it’s hard to imagine that our nation’s largest health insurer, the Medicare Program, didn’t offer prescription drug coverage. So, if you needed a drug that you would pick-up at the drug store that was prescribed by your physician, Medicare didn’t cover that until 2006. When I was at CMS in 2003, that became law, which is to say that Congress passed the Medicare Modernization Act, which created Medicare Part D, or the drug benefit program for Medicare beneficiaries. And we had the very arduous task of implementing a brand new program that many people were quite skeptical would ever succeed, and frankly we weren’t sure it was going to succeed either. And once we implemented it, we had to get people interested and convince Medicare beneficiaries it was worth it to sign-up for it. You and I got to spend lots of time together, and it was really a true privilege and pleasure to be able to travel the country with you and our other HHS colleagues teaching people about the Medicare drug benefit. It was really terrific.”

Host Question: So when you look back on it now, we had aspirations for what Medicare Part D could provide for people, do you feel like it was successful?

“Oh, it was tremendously successful. It was such an important effort to incorporate everyone we could find to help get it off the ground. I think that between the private sector and the Medicare Advantage plans, which are the HMO plans that help Medicare beneficiaries; or the stand alone prescription drug plans, those insurance companies; and the pharmaceutical benefit managers; and all the pharmacies and the drug manufacturers, the entire private industry around the drug benefit came together with the government in order to make it successful. And I define success in several different ways. One is how many beneficiaries signed-up for the program, and overtime it’s continued to grow, which is terrific. We’ve also kept the cost well below what it was originally expected to cost when Congress passed the law in 2003. Premiums have been lower than expected. Even today, many beneficiaries have the ability to sign-up for a drug plan at very little, if any, premium, which is really fantastic because prescription drug treatment is such an important part of health care today. Between the cost and the access and the drugs that beneficiaries are able to receive, I think we’ve been really lucky in the success that it’s had. …”

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