Kellyanne Conway for Woman of the Year

Published 9:48 am Friday, December 2, 2016

Every now and then, I get the sensation of a soothing warm bath washing over me when I think how glad I am that I moved back to Niles in 2009, 33 years after moving to Washington, D.C.
The only thing more comforting right now than a warm bath is knowing that Kellyanne Conway, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign manager, continues to have Trump’s ear, and America’s attention.
Whether you are a #NotMyPresident protester or a vast right wing conspirator, you have to admit that Kellyanne is a remarkably talented strategist and an extraordinarily effective and honest spokesperson. When she is on the air, we have the sense of a real straight shooter who shuns “spin” for fact-based statistics.
I can speak from experience in such superlatives honestly because I have known Kellyanne since 1994 when I lobbied health savings accounts for the Council for Affordable Health Insurance. One of the largest health insurance companies that CAHI represented retained Kellyanne for media and strategic advice.
I was fortunate that CAHI was included in Kellyanne’s service agreement. On occasion, Kellyanne called on me for a proposed booking assignment on CNN or my participation in an important panel discussion at a health policy forum that she arranged for CAHI.
During those years, the Clinton administration’s main objective was to enact comprehensive healthcare reform. My goal, and Kellyanne’s, was to make sure HSAs were included in the final legislation.
I shared with Kellyanne the intelligence I gleaned from my lobbying on Capitol Hill, and she would make suggestions about strategy, and tips on how to handle myself on live TV. Because of her affability and tact, her “helpful suggestions” were actually pretty tough performance critiques. I never questioned anything Kellyanne came up with because of her intelligence, confidence and a natural ability to reason.
Evidently, President-elect Trump has recognized these same traits in her.
So it made for little surprise last week when I read that Trump’s changes in Obamacare would include a stronger and more effective health savings account provision.
The HSA proposal that Kellyanne’s client and I lobbied so heavily for was enacted in 1996, but in a weaker form than we wished. A better version of HSAs was included in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, but President Obama gutted it under the Affordable Care Act.
As Congress attempts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare in the weeks and months ahead, you will be hearing more and more about health savings accounts. If you do not know what a health savings account is, you certainly will by spring. In the meantime, think of HSAs as the silver lining in the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
I speak from experience when I tell you Kellyanne Conway knows all about the benefits of HSAs as reform to Obamacare.
No matter which side of the Great Political Divide you find yourself, you will learn something new about health policy from Kellyanne. I know I did 20 years ago!

A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington, D.C., since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of health savings accounts (HSAs).