As the first Black woman to hold the position, Brooks-LaSure steps into the role at a critical time for public health and policy. As the country faces concurrent health, social, economic and climate crises, Brooks-LaSure is undaunted and ready to get to work because she knows the critical role CMS has in post-pandemic recovery and resilience-building efforts.
Expanding Healthcare Coverage
Brooks-LaSure views the current moment as an opportunity to build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and expand comprehensive health care coverage while addressing existing disparities laid bare during the pandemic. The Obama administration veteran pointed out that the ACA also came to fruition during an economic crisis.
“In this difficult time, we have an opportunity to address health inequities,” explains Brooks-LaSure. “It’s a huge priority for me to help CMS further develop expertise and work in a new way to make sure that all of our programs – Medicaid, Medicare and the Marketplaces — best serve enrollees, especially those in historically underserved communities.”
She acknowledges there is a lot of work ahead. While “finishing the unfinished work of the ACA” is a crucial focus, she says the agency is also committed to implementing the COVID relief bills set out by Congress, addressing maternal health disparities, strengthening long-term care and behavioral health services and lowering prescription drug costs for American patients and families.
Front-Row Seat to Policy
Georgetown provided exposure and access to policy professionals and faculty experts early in Brooks-LaSure’s health policy career.
“Through my early career experiences, as an intern with the Senate Finance Committee among many others, I got a front-row seat to learn what it was like to work in public policy,” said Brooks-LaSure.
She connected with a policy professional at a Georgetown event that led to her first job after graduate school in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) working in health policy — a position that served as a critical stepping stone for her career trajectory. In addition to OMB, she also worked for the Committee on Ways and Means designing the ACA and in the Obama administration working to implement the law.
“One of the things I love about my career is that I’ve worked in many areas across the health policy world,” said Brooks-LaSure. “That’s why I am confident and excited to be in this new role because I have such a diversity of experience and expertise.”
Process of Progress
One of the things Brooks-LaSure is most proud of in her career is the time she spent shaping and implementing the ACA. While the process from policy design to implementation took years of effort, the stories people shared about the policy changing their lives inspired and energized her. She often reminded herself that “the process is also part of progress.”
“During that period, I learned so much about garnering support,” Brooks- LaSure said. “It was a long process, and it taught me a lot about what you need to do to bring people together and the importance of sustained and collaborative engagement with stakeholders.”
She has two main pieces of advice for emerging policy leaders. The first is to build meaningful relationships with peers, community members, faculty, and co-workers because mentors can come from a variety of sources. The second piece of advice is to find ways to create a healthy balance between life and work.
“There is always more work to do,” she explained. “You have to find the things that recharge you and keep you grounded.”