Featured Speakers Bios
Senior Contributing Editor, KFF Health News, and author of An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back
Elisabeth Rosenthal, Senior Contributing Editor, Health News Analysis, joined KFF Health News in 2016 as Editor-in-Chief after 22 years as a correspondent with The New York Times. She covered a variety of beats for the newspaper, from healthcare to the environment, and did a stint in the Beijing bureau. While in China, she covered SARS, bird flu, and the emergence of HIV/AIDS in rural areas. Her 2013-2014 series, “Paying Till It Hurts,” won many prizes for both health reporting and its creative use of digital tools. Her book, An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, was a New York Times bestseller.
She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Medical School and briefly practiced medicine in a New York City emergency room before converting to journalism.
President, SEIU 32BJ and Trustee, Labor Industry Cooperation Fund
Before becoming President, Manny Pastreich was 32BJ’s Director of Bargaining and Secretary Treasurer. In this role, as number two to former President Kyle Bragg, he participated in bargaining every major agreement within the union, helping to win wage increases, shoring up members’ benefits, and expanding protections for the 175,000 SEIU 32BJ members from New York City, Washington, DC; Boston, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Florida, and beyond.
Manny cut his teeth helping to bring thousands of members into SEIU and 32BJ, including leading research (1992-1996) for the Justice for Janitors campaign in DC—with demonstrations by janitors and allies blocking bridges and major arteries—and as an executive supporting 32BJ’s successful new organizing of tens of thousands of security officers and airport workers in the 2000s. He combines an understanding of organizing with a reputation as a strong hand at the bargaining table.
Growing up, he attended demonstrations, bargaining sessions, and building visits alongside his father who helped launch two SEIU healthcare locals in Massachusetts. He had the opportunity to see firsthand the difference unions made in workers’ lives, from pay and benefits to the opportunity to have a voice on the job.
At 32BJ, Manny has taken up the cause of fast-food workers, deliveristas, and gig workers, helping to drive policy change to raise standards and working conditions in those industries—and to keep organized labor on the offensive, as technology and modern working conditions change. He has driven innovative strategies, like the 32BJ Campaign for Affordable Hospitals, that help the union stay one step ahead politically and economically.
“Our union has a special history and opportunity to make change. We are one of the largest local unions in the country with 175,000 members—bigger than many international unions—with the resources and talent to win contracts, organize, and make politics happen for working people. We represent essential workers in key industries and can use our leverage to advance transformative change for all workers,” said Manny.
“I’m excited to build with our new and diverse leadership team, to continue our political advocacy for racial justice, economic justice for all, immigrant justice, climate justice, and to continue the momentum we have generated on campaigns like our fast-food worker, airports campaigns and fight to address hospital overpricing.”
Manny has been involved in every state where 32BJ operates, bargaining contracts, strengthening the foundation of the union’s funds, and gaining a truly comprehensive understanding of what it takes to build momentum across the union’s jurisdiction.
In the 1990s, he also worked as a researcher supporting SEIU’s organizing and bargaining across the country before doing a three-year stint as a research director for the AFL-CIO on the United Farm Workers’ strawberry-worker organizing campaign. He then completed another three years with the AFL-CIO, coordinating multiunion campaigns in the airline and airport sectors.
Manny joined SEIU 32BJ as a Research Director from 2002 to 2004, after which he became Director of Collective Bargaining Benefits Fund and a Taft-Hartley Benefit Fund Trustee covering pension, health, training, and legal benefit funds. Manny previously served as a Board Member at the Latin American Youth Center and his son’s Little League Board.
Ramon J. Rodriguez
President and CEO, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center
Ramon J. Rodriguez has been a leader and top executive in healthcare, state government, and social services for over 30 years. A nationally recognized turnaround expert, he has set Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, a 350-bed teaching hospital located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, on a course of improved patient care and fiscal stability. Ramon joined Wyckoff in December 2011.
As a seasoned managed care executive, he was Co-founder and CEO of Socios Mayores En Salud Inc., a Medicare Advantage and health care provider company in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. He has also served as Executive Director of Sanus Health Plan of New York, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Health Net, and President of Columbia Greene Medical Center, which consisted of two community hospitals and a nursing home.
In Ramon’s state government and social services career, he has served as Chairman of the New York State Parole Board, Chief Counsel of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, Executive Deputy Director for the Division for Youth, and Executive Director of Union Settlement Association. He also was a Trustee of the New School for 27 years and a Board Member of the Primary Care Development Corporation. He holds a Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from City College of New York.
Assistant Director of Policy, 32BJ Health Fund
Misha Sharp has provided the policy expertise necessary to launch the 32BJ Campaign for Affordable Hospitals. This campaign is focused on lowering hospital prices as a primary driver of rising healthcare costs that place pressure on union members’ health benefits and total compensation.
As a part of this campaign, Misha worked with the Lown Institute to publish a fair-share spending analysis about New York City hospitals. Their report created pressure for legislators in New York City to hold hospitals more accountable and set the stage for establishing the nation’s first-ever municipal Office of Healthcare Accountability. Misha was an integral part of getting this legislation passed and ensuring the Office of Healthcare Accountability will be an asset to all New Yorkers.
Misha has worked across 32BJ Health Fund operations and analytics teams: leading implementation of regulatory opportunities resulting from the No Surprises Act and Transparency in Coverage, managing vendor relationships, and developing cost and savings models to assess potential benefit changes.
Previously, Misha worked with the United Hospital Fund to provide strategic guidance and research for the New York State Medicaid program. She holds an MPH from Emory University.
Host, Relentless Health Value Podcast
Each week on the award-winning Relentless Health Value Podcast, Stacey Richter uses her voice and thought leadership to provide insights for healthcare industry decisionmakers trying to do the right thing. Relentless Health Value is a top 100 podcast on iTunes in the medicine category and reaches tens of thousands of engaged listeners from across the care continuum.
When not hosting the podcast, she is co-president of Aventria Health Group, a consultancy and specialized marketing agency that helps healthcare organizations improve patient outcomes by collaborating with other healthcare organizations.
Director, 32BJ Health Fund
At the 32BJ Health Fund, a self-funded plan that provides affordable, comprehensive, and innovative health coverage to 200,000 union members and their families, Cora Opsahl has led the implementation of multiple benefit changes: removing NewYork-Presbyterian hospital system and physicians from the network; transitioning to a new pharmacy vendor and pharmacy group purchasing coalition; and implementing an expanded Centers of Excellence program administered by Mount Sinai Solutions. These efforts saved over $35 million in 2022. She is currently leading a comprehensive medical RFP and the 32BJ Campaign for Affordable Hospitals to combat rising prices.
Prior to joining the 32BJ Health Fund, Cora spent 12 years with Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, where she held a variety of roles, including in Medicare Part D, strategy and acquisitions, operations, and account management. She holds an MBA from Saint Louis University.
Elisabeth R. Benjamin
Vice President, Health Initiatives, Community Service Society of New York
Elisabeth Benjamin supervises health policy, health advocacy, and consumer health assistance programs that serve over 100,000 New Yorkers annually. She is a leading consumer health advocate in New York State and Co-founder of Health Care for All New York Campaign (HCFANY), a statewide coalition of over 170 organizations devoted to securing affordable, quality healthcare for all New Yorkers. She has published extensively and has been a frequent commentator about health policy issues such as: health equity, insurance coverage expansions, and medical debt.
Elisabeth received a Master of Science degree in Health Policy and Management from Harvard School of Public Health in 1988 and a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University School of Law in 1992. She clerked for the Honorable Robert Sweet, a federal District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York. From 2003 to 2004, she was a Visiting Scholar in Bioethics in a program jointly run by Montefiore Medical Center, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and New York University.
Passionate Health Care Reform Leader l Advocate for Employers’ Role in Better Health Care l Strategic Advisor & Consultant
Lauren Vela is a passionate advocate for a more rational and sustainable health care system and recognizes the influence had by employers and other commercial purchasers through their oversight of employer-sponsored insurance plans. As an independent consultant, she partners with entities that are committed to changing the ineffective status quo.
Previously, Lauren was the Director of Health Care Transformation with Walmart, where she partnered with the Walmart Benefits team to identify solutions to concerns about low-value care, site of care, and vendor evaluation. Prior to her tenure at Walmart, Lauren led market strategy and member initiatives for the Purchaser Business Group on Health, where she cumulatively spent two decades working within various healthcare sectors, including health information technology, provider organizations, and pharmacy benefit management. Lauren also served, for seven years, as the Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Employers Forum, a trade association of high-tech employers collaborating on the innovative delivery of domestic and international benefits.
Chief Strategy Officer and GM, Medical Solutions, Health Transformation Alliance
Lee Lewis leads efforts across over 50 large and jumbo employers and six million employees to save lives and millions of dollars through improved health delivery, outcomes, and experience. Key initiatives include new models of health benefits administration, advanced primary care access, and improved clinical delivery and outcomes.
He has advised healthcare strategy at Fortune 10 employers, insurance companies and administrators, medical associations, and the Departments of Justice and Labor. He incubated and helped form two dozen health-benefit startup companies and has been quoted and featured in Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.
Lee is a founding, charter member of the Health Rosetta organization, which seeks to provide open-source employer health benefits strategy for the public good, and host of the Broken Benefits podcast, interviewing changemakers helping to fix American healthcare.
Before joining the HTA, Lewis was a consultant at Gallagher, where he founded Gallagher’s innovation lab and was ranked second globally in health benefits consulting from among thousands of consultants. In 2019, he received the industry’s top honor as the Outstanding National Consultant for Large & Jumbo Employers by the independent Validation Institute. His consulting clients won Diamond Innovation Awards at the World Healthcare Congress, Innovation Awards from the Texas Business Groups on Health, Top 20 Innovator Awards from Healthcare Revolution Conference, and Financial Innovation and Large Group Management Innovation accolades from the Validation Institute.
Lee is a Rhodes Scholar nominee. He attended the University of Michigan and BYU and graduated second in his class, magna cum laude, with university honors.
Chair, New York State Senate Finance Committee
State Senator Liz Krueger was first elected to the New York State Senate in 2002, and is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. She is a strong advocate for women’s rights, tenants’ rights, affordable housing, improved access to health care, social services, environmental sustainability, and public education. She has made reforming and modernizing New York State’s governmental processes, electoral system, and tax policy central goals of her legislative agenda.
Before her election, Sen. Krueger worked for 15 years as Associate Director of the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC), directing its efforts to expand access to government programs for low-income New Yorkers. Prior to that, Sen. Krueger was the founding Director of the New York City Food Bank, building that organization into one that now serves an estimated 5.4 million meals each year.
Director, Policy and Strategy, 32BJ Health Fund
Claire Brockbank leads the 32BJ Health Fund’s efforts to drive down hospital prices, including a multistakeholder campaign to draw attention to the central role that hospital prices play in healthcare costs and to drive action to lower those prices through public policy, operational innovation, and direct interaction with hospitals.
Prior to joining 32BJ Health Fund, Claire served as CEO of Peak Health Alliance, a healthcare purchasing cooperative in Colorado. As the lead architect of the development and launch of Peak, she leveraged data and community organizing to lower premiums by approximately 35 percent in its first two years of operation. Peak also pioneered innovative benefit designs to channel access to more value-driven services. She earned a master’s degree in health policy and management from Harvard University.
President, Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations
For more than three decades, Howard Rothschild has represented the real estate industry in labor negotiations, participated in thousands of arbitrations, and represented employers in matters before federal, state, and New York City courts and administrative agencies. Notably, he was counsel of record for one of the employers in Pyett v. 14 Penn Plaza before the Supreme Court of the United States, a seminal labor case that cemented arbitration’s place as a foundation of organized labor relations. Howard also serves as an officer and a trustee on the Boards and Committees of SEIU, Local 32BJ Funds, Local 94, and IUOE Funds, and is active in the funds’ governance. In 2010, the International Foundation
awarded Howard the designation of Master Trustee.
A regular speaker to industry and legal professional groups, Howard volunteers extensively to further the interests of the community. He was appointed to the Board of Directors of several service organizations, including The 34th Street Partnership in 2021; The Outreach Project, which provides treatment for adolescents struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, in 2013; The Bridge, which provides services for adults with mental illness, in 2012, and its Executive Committee in 2017; and Children-At-Play, a preschool program for children with disabilities, in 2010. He previously served on the Board of Trustees of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley (SSDSRV) for 10 years and its Executive Committee for five years. Howard has been honored by Project Outreach, The Bridge, and SSDSRV for his commitment and devotion to these organizations.
A graduate of Hofstra Law School, he is admitted to practice law in New York State, the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Howard is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Real Estate Board of New York.