David W. Benson

David W. Benson is a Senior State and Local Campaigns Manager with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), focusing on Medicaid and other access to care public issue policies. He joined ACS CAN in 2014 as the South Dakota Government Relations Director, and he has briefly covered Nebraska and North Dakota. In 2022, Benson served as president and treasurer of South Dakotans Decide Healthcare — the ballot campaign committee that led the effort to expand Medicaid in South Dakota. Prior to working for ACS CAN, he served on the staff of U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (SD) and worked on various electoral campaigns and nonprofit organizations.

Benson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government/International Affairs from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He and his wife, Marley, enjoy youth mentoring, the Boston Red Sox, and chasing after their two daughters — Eliza and Isabel — and their Wheaten Terrier, Brontë Ruby Bridges.

Jennifer Dexter

Jennifer Dexter is the Vice President of Policy with the National Health Council. In her role, Dexter helps NHC’s member organizations establish policy positions that seek to improve the lives of people with chronic diseases and disabilities. She is also one of the NHC’s most visible public faces, often making her way over to Capitol Hill where she further advocates for critical health care reform policies with key lawmakers and representatives from the executive branch.

Prior to joining the NHC in September 2019, Dexter served two and a half years as a product director at Anthem, Inc. helping the organization develop and shape Medicaid solutions that supported people with disabilities, older adults, and children in foster care. Prior to that, she led Easterseals’ federal programs and annual efforts with Congress, assuring funding for all federal programs that served people with disabilities and older adults.

Dexter worked with Congress to create — and strengthen — public policy affecting people with disabilities and older adults, particularly in long-term services and support. From her time at Easterseals’ to her current time with the NHC, the

continued protection and enhancement of legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, has been a top priority for Dexter and her team.

Dexter earned a Bacehlor of Arts in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.

Eric Gascho

Eric Gascho is the Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at the National Health Council (NHC). He has been with the NHC since August 2009. In his role, Gascho leads the organization’s advocacy efforts by working with its member organizations to develop policy positions that seek to improve the lives of people with chronic diseases and disabilities. He also goes a step further, advocating for policies on Capitol Hill and with representatives from the executive branch. Furthermore, Gascho represents the NHC in national media and the broader health care community through public speaking engagements and coalitions. He serves on the Steering Committee of the Partnership to Protect Coverage and the NIH’s PCOR Chronic Conditions Monitoring Board.

Prior to joining the NHC, Gascho worked in the government relations department of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Heearned his Bachelor of Arts degrees in government and business management from the University of Redlands in California.

John Hammarlund

As OPOLE’s Deputy Director for Local Engagement & Administration, John Hammarlund directs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) consumer education, stakeholder outreach, and environmental scanning portfolio in all 10 federal regions across the U.S. He is also honored to supervise CMS’ Regional Administrators.

Hammarlund’s background includes work in both the public and private health care and insurance sectors. He has been with CMS since 1993 in a variety of policy and management roles, including CMS’ Office of Legislation in Washington, D.C., and as Regional Administrator for CMS Seattle, Washington, from 2007 to 2019.

A Seattle native, Hammarlund holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Washington, and a Juris Doctor degree from Cornell Law School.

Caren Howard

Caren Howard currently serves as Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for Mental Health America (MHA), an organization that aims to put the voices of people with lived experience of mental health conditions at the helm of decision-making both at the policy table and in health care settings. With 14 years of experience in legislative and political affairs and advocacy, Howard educates and persuades federal and state policymakers to act on a wide range of issues that impact individuals with mental health conditions including health care, education, criminal justice, and housing. She also facilitates relationships between state and local MHA affiliates and their federal and state public officials through MHA’s Back Home Campaign and Hill Day programs and manages four annual conferences for MHA’s Regional Policy Council.

Howard joined MHA in January 2017 after serving as a leading fundraiser for several members of the House of Representatives. Her Capitol Hill reach extends closer to home, as she spent five years at the U.S. Capitol on behalf of her hometown representative, Congressman John P. Sarbanes of Baltimore, Maryland, and House Majority Leader Congressman Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland. She has also

worked on a coordinated campaign in New Mexico during the 2008 election cycle, aiding in the election of President Barak Obama.

Howard earned a B.A. in Political Science from Spelman College. A native of Maryland, she lives in Lake Worth Beach, Florida, with her spunky Pomeranian-Chihuahua.

Robin Rudowitz

Robin Rudowitz is Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Director for the Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured, where she focuses on state and federal Medicaid financing issues and Medicaid and its relationship to the Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining the KFF in 2004, Rudowitz was a Senior Manager at the Lewin Group, a health policy and management consulting firm.  She has also worked on budget and health policy issues in different government agencies including the Office of Legislation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; the Office of the Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia; the Congressional Budget Office; and the Ways and Means Committee for the New York State Assembly.