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  • Interviews
    This interview was conducted with Felicia Wasson, AARP Associate State Director of Government Affairs via email, April 13-28, 2009.

    1. Can you describe a little about your background? What led you to the area of politics/influencing public policy, particularly in the field of healthcare?

    A: I have had an interest in politics since I was a child. One of my family members was an elected official at the time told me about the lobbying profession and I thought I would like to be that. It just so happened that my career path lead right to it.

    .

    2. What are some of your past experiences or previous roles with interest groups or government?

    A: I began my career right out of Michigan State University as a Secretary to a State Senator. While working in this capacity, I finished my Master's Degree in Public Administration and went on to be the Legislative Director and then Chief of Staff in the Senator's office.

    3. Can you briefly describe your responsibilities as the AARP Associate State Director of Government Affairs?

    • Plans, develops and implements a comprehensive state-wide advocacy plan to achieve priorities.
    • Represents AARP before public policy makers and participates in the rule making and regulatory processes of the state.
    • Develops strategies for issue campaigns to reach desired outcomes within the state.
    • Lobbies for state and federal legislative priorities.
    • Trains volunteers on strategies, tactics, policies and state specific political processes.
    • Maintains up to date knowledge of state and federal issues and working relationships with law makers.

    4. Is there a specific piece of public policy you are trying to influence currently, or a particular piece of legislation you are focusing on?

    A: Health Care Reform is AARP's #1 priority on both the State and Federal level. We would like to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and quality healthcare in their communities.

    5. What are some of the tactics that you are using to achieve your goals?

    A: We are working with the Obama Administration and stakeholders on the state and federal level to create plans that would be beneficial to AARP members and all Americans.

    6. What are some of the main challenges you face in trying to influence public policy in health care?

    A: In the field of health care, most interested parties do agree that a change in our delivery system is necessary. The tough part comes when it comes to actual details. It is challenging to enter in to a solution that all parties can agree upon.

    7. Do you have any typical opponents?

    A: There are not typical opponents. It varies issue to issue.

    8. What are one or two recent (or previous major) successes you have had in influencing policy?

    • The defeat of legislation proposed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that would have changed the way that individual health care insurance policies were offered in Michigan. In December of 2008, we worked with a coalition that defeated the bills that we felt would make the cost of health care unaffordable for many.
    • Recent passage (in the House) of the Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Act. While the bills have yet to be sent to the governor for her signature, we supported a package of bills that would allow for a mediation process for consumers who are in danger of losing their home to foreclosure.

    9. Have your opinions of state politics or public policy changed as you have become more involved in government? Have any particular successes/challenges caused these changes of opinion?

    A: I PERSONALLY believe that the era of term limits have had a diminishing impact on legislative relations in this state. The loss of institutional knowledge and expertise and the heightened sense of partisanship have made it quite difficult to establish long term working relationships that are needed for the development of good public policy.

    10. Are you currently doing any policy work regarding Medicare Advantage?

    A: Many of AARP's members are over age 65 and are currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. We believe that Medicare and the plans are imperative to the longevity of our members so any legislation that would seek to change the way Medicare and any of it's supplemental plans are offered are of keen interest to our organization. We are not currently working on any Medicare Advantage legislation.

    Link: AARP Michigan

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